Coast Guard lends a helping hand to shell-shocked turtles

FORT MACON, N.C. - Boatswain’s Mate Matthew Losinger drives the boat from Coast Guard Cutter Block Island as Seaman Joe Paliotti and Lt. j.g. Nick Zieser release a large loggerhead sea turtle to the warmer waters of the Gulf Stream off the Coast of North Carolina. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Tim Braun

Boatswain’s Mate Matthew Losinger drives the boat as Seaman Joe Paliotti and Lt. j.g. Nick Zieser release a large loggerhead sea turtle.

MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. – The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Block Island broke from its traditional mission Wednesday and partnered with a other agencies to help 40-50 sea turtles who needed a lift to the Gulf Stream

Last week the cold weather stunned nearly 80 sea turtles in the Core and Pamlico Sounds. The shallow waters of the sounds cooled rapidly and the turtles were unable to get out of the inlets quickly and became hypothermic.

The turtles were found listless and lethargic along the coastal beaches and were quickly taken to animal hospitals and aquariums for recovery.

Wednesday, the recovered turtles were transported to the cutter Block Island for a journey to the warmer 75 degree-waters of the Gulf Stream.

“Environmental Marine Protection is one of the numerous missions that the Coast Guard does every day,” said Lt. j.g. Nick Zieser. “What we are doing today is helping with environmental protection for sea turtles, but just in a different way.”

The Block Island’s crew along with two veterinarians from North Carolina State University transported the turtles approximately 40 miles south east of Cape Lookout to return 36 adult sea turtles and numerous small hatchlings to the Gulf Stream.

The Coast Guard partnered with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Sea Turtle Project, North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina Aquarium, Virginia Aquarium, South Carolina Aquarium, NEST Volunteering, and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Homeported in Atlantic Beach, N.C., the Block Island is a 110 foot Island class patrol boat with a 16-person crew. They are responsible for conducting law enforcement, search and rescue, homeland security, and marine environmental protection off the coastal waters from the southern tip of North Carolina and north to New Jersey.

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