Fort Walton Beach, Fla. (November 14, 2020) - Gulf World Marine Institute (GWMI) has received 17 cold-stunned Kemp’s ridley sea turtles from the New England Aquarium in Quincy, MA. The sea turtles were flown by a private plane from Massachusetts to Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (KECP), and then were immediately transported to GWMI for rehabilitation. 

As reptiles, sea turtles’ body temperatures closely match the temperature of their environment. Sea turtles can become cold-stunned (or shocked) when the temperatures in shallows bays and estuaries drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which routinely starts to occur in late October to early November each year in the Northeast, or may happen for short times even in Florida during mid-winter. 

Due to the large number of stranded turtles that are typically admitted for medical treatment to the New England Aquarium, they reach out to other members of the stranding network for assistance. The strategy is to place as many animals as possible in facilities in the Southern U.S. to relieve the immediate response area and create vacancies for additional incoming sea turtles in New England. 

In the upcoming weeks to months, GWMI will continue rehabilitating these animals until Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) deem them releasable.

Thank you to Turtles Fly Too for coordinating the flight and to pilot Ed Filangeri and Doug Tolle for generously donating his time and airplane for this mission. We would also like to thank Massachusetts Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, NOAA Fisheries, New England Aquarium, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and all volunteers for working together to make this possible.

We invite media to cover the examination process of the new turtles on Monday, November 16, 2020. If interested, you must coordinate with Lauren Albrittain before coming to Gulf World. We will coordinate appropriate times based on activity/precautions for COVID. The address for our facility is 15412 Front Beach Road, Panama City Beach, FL 32413. 

Lauren Albrittain (240) 346-8813