For many of us, attending a sea turtle release is an indescribable feeling. For most guests, it’s the moment when they fully understand our mission and why hundreds of volunteers/staff members dedicate their lives to sea turtle and ocean conservation. And for everyone who attends, a sea turtle release will teach you three things about the rescue and release process.
1. Every patient’s story is different. Each year, our rehabilitation staff treats and average of 60 – 80 sea turtle patients (not including hatchlings and post-hatchlings), which has resulted in the treatment of 600 to 800 sea turtles in the last decade. All off our sea turtle patients are given a unique name and patient ID allowing our rehab staff to identify the turtle if the turtle ever returns to the Center. Although our hospital staff typically sees similar cases, each sea turtle has a story of its own and is provided with a patient specific diagnosis. For example, Holiday arrived to the center after ingesting 7 feet of monofilament line, while Marian arrived to the center after being entangled in monofilament line. Everyone’s story is different and everyone’s journey is different.
2. Life’s moments are better when shared. Individuals who are unfamiliar with the Center often inquire “Why do your releases attract such a large crowd?” and we always answer “It’s a feeling.” Hundreds of supporters, volunteers, and staff members gather at 11 a.m. on a weekday to experience a feeling of hope – hope for the sea turtle, hope for the health of the oceans, and hope that their belief in Loggerhead Marinelife Center will help change the world. Hundreds of individuals stand shoulder to shoulder in the blazing sun inhaling hope and exhaling a promise to make the environment safer for sea turtles, because they know that bearing witness to the turtle’s return home is testimony that our marine life and oceans need us. And this amazing experience is more impactful when shared.
3. Our patients will be known forever by the tracks they leave. Once a release has ended, several guests, supporters and volunteers take a few moments to gather at the water line to send their hopes and wishes with the turtle. After Squash’s release, Heidi Silverstein submitted a photo of the tracks Squash left in the sand upon returning home to the ocean. A healthy Squash ventured back into the ocean marking Juno Beach, FL with a story of hope, success, and a reminder to keep the ocean healthy and safe for all sea turtles. For over 30 years, our volunteers and staff have watched hundreds of rehabilitated sea turtles return home leaving them with the memory of the specific patient’s story and a compulsion to develop, implement, and spread conservation initiatives to save more turtles.
Next time you attend a sea turtle release, we encourage you to reflect on the turtle’s journey from rescue to release and take a moment to consider how you can improve the health of our oceans and the lives of endangered sea turtles.