Staff Respond to 34 Sea Turtle Strandings in 2022
In addition to sea turtle nest monitoring, SCCF holds the permit for responding to and documenting sea turtle strandings (sick, injured, or dead turtles) on Sanibel and Captiva. Sick or injured turtles are quickly rescued and transported to a rehabilitation facility, where they can be appropriately evaluated and treated.
In 2022, SCCF staff documented a total of 34 stranded turtles, including 30 dead and four live turtles. Loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) accounted for 18 strandings, followed by 11 green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas), two Kemp’s ridleys (Lepidochelys kempii), and three turtles that could not be identified due to decomposition.
“Most of the stranded turtles (20) had no obvious acute injuries or abnormalities and could not be assigned a cause of death by an external examination alone,” said SCCF Sea Turtle Biologist Jack Brzoza, adding that definitive vessel-strike injuries were found in 10 strandings.
When fatal strandings are salvaged (for necropsy or research purposes) or live turtles are transported to a rehabilitation facility, they often need to be carried long distances along the beach before they can be loaded into a vehicle.
“It is important that these transports are as safe as possible for both the turtle and response team,” Brzoza said. “Our primary aims are to reduce stress on the animal, in the case of live strandings, and to decrease the chance of human injury when dealing with heavy carcasses.”
SCCF recently acquired new equipment to aid in sea turtle stranding response, thanks to a 2022 grant awarded by the Sea Turtle Grants Program, which is funded from proceeds from the sale of the Florida Sea Turtle Specialty License Plate. The grant provided funds for a hand truck and sea turtle sling to help transport animals, as well as a chest freezer and operating table to aid in salvage and necropsy efforts.
“These items were a huge help during our 2022 stranding response efforts, allowing SCCF staff to move deceased strandings in a manner that is safer for personnel and transport live strandings in a manner safe for both personnel and the animal,” Brzoza said.
SCCF collects data on all stranded turtles — including species, location, size, and descriptions of wounds/injuries, and abnormalities — and reports it to the FWC. This data can be used at the state and federal levels to monitor mortality, categorize stranding events, and better inform management practices.
If you encounter a stranded sea turtle, please call the SCCF Sea Turtle Hotline at 978-728-3663.