Sea turtle hatchlings relocated from the Gulf of Mexico’s oil spill area released into the Atlantic Ocean
MERRITT ISLAND, Fla.- More than 45 threatened and endangered sea turtle hatchlings were released the night of Aug. 2, on a remote beach along Florida's East Coast, the final stage in an unprecedented rescue effort. Since June 26, 135 sea turtle nests have been relocated by government agencies and FedEx from beaches in the path of the oil spill in Alabama, Mississippi and the Florida Panhandle to a secure, climate-controlled facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Fla. So far, 2,168 hatchlings completed their incubation and were released into the Atlantic Ocean.
Scientists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the National Park Service and NOAA devised the rescue plan rather than risk the hatchlings encountering oil as they entered the Gulf of Mexico. Sea turtle conservation groups were also consulted, and FedEx developed a transportation solution to traverse 500-plus miles of Florida per run with minimal vibration and close temperature control.
"While there are still many nests left to hatch at Kennedy, we're ecstatic about the early results from this high-stakes mission to preserve and protect these amazing sea creatures," said Tom Strickland, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, who attended last night's release along with Nick Wiley, Executive Director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Virginia Albanese, CEO of FedEx Custom Critical. "Thanks to the helping hands of many terrific partners, we are seeing success from an unprecedented operation to save this year's hatchlings from what could have been a catastrophic loss."
The hatchlings are primarily loggerhead sea turtles, which are under consideration for reclassification from threatened to endangered due to their decline.
Jeff Trandahl, executive director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) said, "The collective efforts and quick action by our partners at FedEx and federal agencies have been essential to offering these sea turtles the best hope for survival and NFWF is proud to have played a part in helping move this extraordinary project forward."
The number of nests relocated will continue to increase over the next few weeks, reaching peak the week of August 23, when FedEx will transport over 4,000 eggs per day. FedEx is donating logistics expertise and transportation for all eggs throughout the July - October sea turtle season, using air-ride suspension, temperature-controlled vehicles for the vibration and temperature sensitive sea turtle eggs.
Innovative Health Applications, LLC biologists and staff are overseeing the hatchery operations and nightly releases along the beaches of Florida's Space Coast.