Sarasota Police Department partners with Mote Marine Laboratory on release of two sea turtle hatchlings

SARASOTA, Fla. – Nov. 5, 2014 – 9 a.m.

The Sarasota Police Department has partnered with Mote Marine Laboratory to successfully release two of the last loggerhead turtle hatchlings rescued during the 2014 sea turtle nesting season. Sarasota Police Marine Patrol Officer Bruce King and Officer Travis Forrister traveled with Mote Marine Laboratory Scientist Karen Schanzle on Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, to release the two turtle hatchlings in the Gulf of Mexico.

During the 2014 nesting season, Mote Marine Laboratory’s Hatchling Hospital received more than 2,600 hatchlings between May 1, 2014 and Oct. 31, 2014. More than 200 of those needed to remain in the hospital for an extended period of time to recover from any injuries and regain their strength. This included the two turtles released on Oct. 30.

The Sarasota Police Department assisted in the hatchling release by offering the use of the Sarasota Police patrol boat. Mote is currently replacing the boat it normally uses to transport hatchlings to the weed line - a floating mat of seaweed called Sargassum where hatchlings can find shelter and food. The hatchling release also highlights the important ways that law enforcement officers can work together with marine science and conservation professionals for the benefit of marine animals.

"Having our friends from Mote Marine Laboratory on the water is critical for me. To have another set of eyes and ears out there to tell me what is going on is great. When I stumble across something, like an injured animal, and I need help, I have a direct contact," said Officer Bruce King, Sarasota Police Department Marine Patrol Unit.

"We are very grateful to Officer King and Officer Forrister for stepping up to help these hatchlings," said Holly West, Sea Turtle Care Coordinator at Mote, who oversees the care of sea turtles in Mote’s public Aquarium, including the Hatchling Hospital. "With a record number of hatchling patients this year, we’ve been working hard to help them recover and return to the wild quickly. This mission becomes so much easier with the support of caring people in our community."

Sea turtles are protected under federal law and any harassment or interference with a sea turtle, living or dead, is subject to penalty. If you witness anyone disturbing a turtle or find an injured or disoriented hatchling or adult, please notify agents with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922), local law enforcement and/or Mote Marine Laboratory’s Sea Turtle Program at 941-388-4331. If you find a dead or injured sea turtle, contact Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program at 941-988-0212.