Turtles released despite red tide

- Cindy Lane | Sun

Hatchling sea turtles that are disoriented and rescued will continue to be released into the Gulf of Mexico despite the red tide, under instructions from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Hatchlings were released on Coquina Beach on Monday evening pursuant to the determination that it was safe, according to Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring Director Suzi Fox.

“Many of you may wonder whether hatchlings are being impacted by the current red tide event,” the FWC’s Dr. Simona A. Ceriani, Research Scientist with the Marine Turtle Program, wrote Fox in an email.

“The FWC has never documented any apparent adverse effects of red tide on hatchling sea turtles. They are probably not affected because they quickly move offshore, then live at the surface of oceanic areas for at least several years. They likely do not spend much time in any areas with high concentrations of Karenia brevis (red tide) they may encounter because they are constantly moving (or being moved). Additionally, the primary route of lethal exposure to brevetoxin for sea turtles is through ingestion of food containing brevetoxin. Hatchling sea turtles subsist on internalized yolk for at least a week or so before they begin feeding. By the time they begin feeding, they are well away from nearshore areas where red tide blooms often persist. Hatchlings could be exposed to brevotoxin in aerosols and may experience some irritation to their respiratory tract but, at present, we do not have any indication that this causes mortality or noticeably affects behavior,” she wrote. “Please continue to release any stragglers or hatchlings recovered during disorientation as you would normally – do not transport them to other beaches to release.”

Turtle Watch also will continue staking new nests, an important safety measure to avoid heavy machinery operators cleaning up dead fish on the beach from accidentally crushing unmarked turtle nests.