© 2023 | WUWF Public Media
11000 University Parkway
Pensacola, FL 32514
850 474-2787
NPR for Florida's Great Northwest
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Gulfarium's C.A.R.E. Center releases three sea turtles after rehabilitation

CARE.Seaturtle.release-by-john.starrett.photo (5).jpg
John Starrett Photo

In their first for the year, Gulfarium’s C.A.R.E. Center released three rehabilitated sea turtles back to the Gulf of Mexico Wednesday morning including an adult Kemp’s ridley, a green sea turtle, and a loggerhead.

With a crowd cheering on the sand at Topsail Hill State Park, the turtles made their way back to the water.

Releasing the turtles with a public event is a way to educate people about marine life and how to live responsibly with it.

Each of the turtles were brought to the center after incidents with buoy lines or fishing hooks.

  • Grace, a 70-pound adult female Kemp’s ridley sea turtle was found entangled in a buoy line in July 2022, according to Gulfarium. She had been reportedly stuck for over 24 hours. Grace had a severe entanglement wound on her right front flipper as well as a broken lower right jaw.
  • Bermuda, a 66-pound nearly-adult green sea turtle, was hooked in June 2022, at the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier. She had surgery to remove multiple fishing hooks and had seven months of recovery at the CARE Center before she was ready for release.
  • Squash, a 75-pound nearly-adult loggerhead sea turtle Squash was hooked on November 8, 2022, at the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier. During her rehab, center staff found a large circle hook was embedded in her intestines. Since Squash is able to function normally and eat, the decision was made to leave it and avoid damage.
CARE.Seaturtle.release-by-john.starrett.photo (6).jpg
John Starrett Photo
CARE.Seaturtle.release-by-john.starrett.photo (4).jpg
John Starrett Photo

“Turtle releases are what we do,” said Patrick Berry, senior vice president/COO at Gulfarium. “Our acronym CARE stands for conserve, act, rehabilitate and educate. So sea turtle releases fit into each one of those aspects to what we do every day.”

All five Florida species of sea turtles —the loggerhead, leatherback, green, Kemp’s ridley, and hawksbill — are listed as either endangered or threatened species, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Commercial fishing nets and ingesting plastic and other litter are two major contributors to threatening sea turtle survival killing tens of thousands of sea turtles a year.

CARE.Seaturtle.release-by-john.starrett.photo (7).jpg
John Starrett Photo
CARE.Seaturtle.release-by-john.starrett.photo (2).jpg
John Starrett Photo

The Gulfarium C.A.R.E Foundation, a program of Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in Okaloosa County, was developed as a nonprofit in 2015, with the mission to rehab and release various sea turtle species. If a sea turtle is deemed non-releasable they are given a permanent home at the center.

In 2022, the center cared for 124 turtles. Most of them were deemed releasable, said Berry.

As a nonprofit, the C.A.R.E center accepts donations to purchase equipment. There are also volunteer opportunities.

“Also, being aware of conservation action, for example as simple as not littering or disposing of fishing gear properly can all help sea turtles,” said Berry.

If you see a sea turtle in distress, injured, or deceased, you can report it to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922).

Jennie joined WUWF in 2018 as digital content producer and reporter.