A videographer in Florida saw a loggerhead turtle lingering near the surface of the ocean last month.
After quickly alerting the authorities, the turtle was rescued and is still recovering in a rehabilitation center.
The rehabilitation center confirmed that the turtle had been exposed to red tide, a toxic algal bloom.
A nature videographer in Florida was filming the coastline last month with his drone, as he often does, when he spotted something unusual in the water – a loggerhead turtle lingering near from the surface.
“It was pretty easy to spot because it was floating on the surface and it didn’t dive,” Michael McCarthy, owner of the See Through Canoe Company, told Insider. “Normally when you see a turtle in the ocean, it only stays on the surface for 20 seconds to a minute, just to catch its breath and come back down.”
But this turtle, off a beach near St. Petersburg, remained on the surface. Zooming in with his drone, it was obvious to McCarthy that the turtle needed help, and needed it fast.
He took about a minute of footage to document the turtle’s behavior, knowing it would be important, before returning home to upload the video and call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, or FWC.
“When you call FWC or other agencies, they don’t know if you have any experience with turtles or sea life, or if you have any idea what you’re really looking at,” McCarthy explained. He knew the video would help him show that the turtle needed help.
FWC put him in touch with one of their biologists, who called him back within minutes. She started asking him a bunch of questions about the situation, but he knew time was running out. He interrupted her and explained to her that he could send her the video.
“That way you can see for yourself and assess for yourself exactly the situation, and know how quickly he needs help,” McCarthy told him. He added that he had the exact GPS coordinates of where the turtle was, thanks to his drone.
Within an hour, a marine biologist from FWC was on the beach.
The biologist swam in the water and gently guided the large sea turtle to shore. Once on the sand, another beachgoer used his umbrella to shield the turtle from the sun.
FWC informed Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which was located nearby and has a dedicated marine life rescue and rehabilitation facility. A team from the aquarium arrived soon after and was able to get the turtle onto a stretcher and into his van within minutes, according to McCarthy.
“Everyone was on the ball. We all had our A-game. No one stalled,” he said. “And hopefully that will allow this turtle to make a full recovery.”
Video of the ordeal shared by McCarthy and the aquarium showed the turtle appearing out of breath as it lay on the beach and carried away on the stretcher.
After being rescued on Feb. 28, the turtle, which was named Shenandoah, was still being cared for at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on Friday, a representative from the aquarium told Insider.
A patient page on the aquarium’s website shows photos of Shenandoah, which weighs 251 pounds and whose shell is about 3 feet long. Sample testing confirmed what biologists suspected, that Shenandoah was exposed to high levels of red tide, which can impact the turtle’s nervous system and weaken it or cause other functions. abnormal neurological conditions, putting them at risk of drowning or attack by predators.
The aquarium representative said that once Shenandoah recovers, he will be released back into the ocean, likely near where he was rescued.
Endangered loggerhead sea turtles are among Florida’s marine life affected by red tide, a harmful algal bloom that produces toxins that can kill marine life, render shellfish unsuitable for consumption and polluting the ambient air. Red tides, so named because they can turn water red, have occurred along US coastlines but sadly appear on the Gulf Coast of Florida every summer.
McCarthy said that in addition to Shenandoah, he had recently seen a dead turtle, a dead manatee and dead fish washed up on shore, and that seeing this red tide event so early in the year was a bit “of bad augurs” for what could happen this summer.
“I’m glad I did what had to be done. I was busy, I didn’t want to stop everything, but I had to live with myself,” he said. “And I knew I wouldn’t be able to do this if I didn’t drop what I was doing and do what needed to be done.”
He added that he was just grateful he was able to spot this turtle when he did, before it struggled even more, like other marine life he’s seen, and stalked. found already dead on the shore.
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