Ponce Inlet, FL – High surf and seaweed on the shore cause problems for beachgoers but they are not the only ones affected. Marine Science Center Turtle Hospital Manager Melissa Ranly said that during the last couple of weeks they’ve taken 40 to 50 “washback” turtles and hatchlings.
There has been a lot more seaweed on Volusia County beaches and seaweed is what the young turtles thrive on. Ranly said the turtles come along for the ride with the seaweed. She said the volunteers and beach safety officers survey the seaweed for the turtles. Those that are found are taken to the Marine Science Center.
Ranly said that “When sea turtles hatch, they rely on energy stores from a yolk sac to make the multi-mile swim to offshore weed lines-floating masses of Sargassum seaweed that provide shelter and food.” For the turtles, it’s a long way. They use up their energy on the first try and can’t make it back out to the seaweed line.
Staff and volunteers care for the washbacks until open ocean conditions improve; at that time, they will be transported offshore in a boat and placed in weed lines. Ranly said that even though volunteers and beach safety are looking for the turtles, she said that if you find any, you should give them to beach safety. If there is no one available, you can contact the Marine Science Center at 386-304-5545 or the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-3922 for rescue instructions.