An alert angler noticed a sea turtle struggling in the Intracoastal Waterway Friday morning and alerted authorities. The fisherman told authorities that the sea turtle was unable to dive under the water.
Ag-Marine Sgt. Luke Keppel, with the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office, responded to the 155 channel marker in Vero Beach and was able to bring the 40-pound sea turtle aboard.
Sgt. Keppel brought the sea turtle back to Indian River County Fire Rescue Station 2 and waited for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and a rescue group to respond.
A biologist who took the sea turtle for treatment said the sea turtle is likely a Kemp’s Ridley, which are relatively rare for the area, and considered the most endangered.
Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are considered the smallest marine turtles in the world and are also the most endangered., according to the National Wildlife Federation.
The Kemp’s ridley has a triangular-shaped head and a slightly hooked beak with large crushing surfaces. Adults have a nearly circular carapace (top shell) that’s grayish-green, while the plastron (bottom shell) is a pale yellow to cream in color. Hatchlings are black on both sides.
Kemp’s ridleys are usually found in nearshore and inshore waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico, especially in Louisiana waters, which are their primary feeding grounds. Known for their unique synchronized nesting habit, large groups of Kemp’s ridleys gather off a particular nesting beach near Rancho Nuevo, Mexico, in the state of Tamaulipas.
Females then come ashore in subsequent waves to nest. This event is known as an arribada, which means “arrival” in Spanish. Nearly 95 percent of Kemp’s ridley nesting occurs in this one confirmed arribada. A small amount of females nest consistently in Veracruz, Mexico, and at Padre Island National Seashore, Texas.
Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are protected by various international treaties and agreements, as well as national laws. Mexico’s protection of the turtle’s nesting areas in that country has provided significant gains towards conservation of the species.
Additionally, like for other sea turtles, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service conduct regular monitoring of Kemp’s ridley populations.
If you find someone disturbing a sea turtle nest or an injured, dead, or harassed sea turtle, call Wildlife Alert 888-404-FWCC.
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