Why Different Places for Releases?

Al, the sub-adult loggerhead, on the beach during his release on Oct. 17, 2014. Teresa Shumaker photo.

Al, the sub-adult loggerhead, on the beach during his release on Oct. 17, 2014. Teresa Shumaker photo.

A Kemp's ridley swims away during the Oct. 7 offshore release. Jean Petit photo.

A Kemp's ridley swims away during the Oct. 7 offshore release. Jean Petit photo.

By Teresa Shumaker

The short answer is: to give them the best chance to re-adapt themselves to the wild.

On September 22, we released two juvenile green sea turtles in Laguna Madre during a dolphin watch tour with American Diving. Juvenile Atlantic greens are usually released in the Laguna Madre, their natural foraging ground. They eat the seagrass in the bay and algae on the rocks, and the shallow waters provide some safety from predators. The greens are also found on the ocean side of South Padre Island and are found in a wide variety of habitats.

On Oct. 7, six post-hatchling sea turtles — a loggerhead, three Kemp’s ridleys and two hawksbills — were released about 10 miles offshore in a eastward current.  Most young sea turtle species will float with the sargassum mats (aka seaweed) offshore. They eat the seaweed and use it as cover from predators until they reach adulthood.

Our latest release was on Friday, Oct. 17. Four more sea turtles — three juvenile Atlantic greens and Al, a sub-adult loggerhead — were released from the beach at Isla Blanca Park, near the jetties. Loggerheads will migrate up and down the coast close to shore. So the location of this release was chosen specifically for Al. From the southern tip of the island, he can easily get back into the path of his migration. The young greens are found both sides of South Padre Island, so releasing near the jetties allows them to choose which way they want to go.

Careful consideration is given to each turtle when we plan their release. We factor in their age, size, and species to choose the best habitat for them to find the two most important things for survival: food and protection from predators. All of our released turtles are given microchip tags, so if they are found again, a record can be made. Because of tags and emerging research, each year the marine science world learns more and more about these wonderful creatures. We keep abreast of the latest discoveries and talk to leading experts in the field of sea turtles to ensure we are giving each turtle its best chance for surviving in the wild.