There are five species of sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico, and two of them regularly visit Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary--the Hawksbill and the Loggerhead. Following are video highlights of sea turtles observed in the sanctuary, or released into the sanctuary following a rehabilitation period in Galveston, TX.
Loggerhead at Stetson Bank
(video at top of page)
While on a research dive at Stetson Bank, Michelle Johnston waves at a passing Loggerhead Sea Turtle. As Michelle swims away to the left, the camera focuses in on the Loggerhead, which slowly swims over some of the rocky ridges nearby, occasionally pushing off with one flipper or another.
Video Length: 0:49
Releasing a Larger Hawksbill Turtle
This lucky Hawksbill Sea Turtle was rehabilitated by NOAA's Sea Turtle facility in Galveston, and through a collaboration with Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, was released from R/V MANTA.
Since this turtle was a bit larger than most of the turtles we've released, it had to be hoisted over the side of the vessel, in a box, using the A-frame hoist on the back deck. Our staff, wearing flotation vests and hard hats, got in the water on either side of the box to gently ease the turtle into the water between the boat's dive platforms. As water flooded the box, the turtle used its one remaining front flipper to slowly swim away while making slight steering corrections with its two hind flippers.
Video Length: 1:03
Saving an Entangled Loggerhead Turtle
Fishing debris is one of several issues of concern in the sanctuary. Discarded fishing line, lures, weights, and nets all pose threats to the animals that live there.
Back in 2000, sanctuary researcher Emma Hickerson was diving at West Flower Garden Bank when she encountered this entangled loggerhead sea turtle. She was able to successfully remove the offending fishing line from around the turtle's head and neck. Since this is a threatened species, Emma had to have the proper permits in order to handle the animal. We're very glad she did, and the turtle seemed pretty pleased too!
Video Length: 0:38
Credit: FGBNMS/Hickerson and Melanie Wasson
Releasing Rehabilitated Hawksbill Turtles
In partnership with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Sea Turtle Facility in Galveston, TX, the Flower Garden Banks research team assisted with the release of 7 rehabilitated hawksbill sea turtles July 18-19, 2012.
All of the turtles were originally found sick or injured along the Texas coast, many of them entangled in marine debris. The NMFS sea turtle facility rehabilitated these animals, getting them back to full health before releasing them back into the Gulf of Mexico.
The first few turtles were released near oil and gas production platforms where sea turtles often hang out. However, the turtles didn't seem very interested in the platforms.
The remaining turtles were released near large mats of sargassum floating on the surface and seemed to find this quite acceptable. They immediately swam into the algae for cover.
Thanks to the NOAA Fisheries sea turtle facility for its hard work rescuing these endangered species and getting them back in the ocean!
Video Length: 1:49