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Aquarium of the Pacific Veterinary Team Releases Endangered Sea Turtle to the Wild After its Rescue and Recovery from Surgery

Aquarium staff members transported the green sea turtle to the water’s edge and released it near the mouth of the San Gabriel River

sea turtle with tag entering the ocean on a beach

Credit: Aquarium of the Pacific

May 16, 2024

May 16, 2024, Seal Beach, CA—A rescued endangered sea turtle returned to the ocean after months of medical attention and care at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Aquarium veterinary and animal husbandry staff released the sea turtle near the mouth of the San Gabriel River in Seal Beach, California, on May 16, 2024.

“It was an incredible moment, watching the turtle make its way from the sand into the ocean and swim away. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to help it recover and return to the wild,” said Dr. Adams, Aquarium of the Pacific veterinarian.

The sea turtle was rescued near Avila Beach, California, on December 11, 2023, by The Marine Mammal Center’s San Luis Obispo Operations based in Morro Bay, California. The Marine Mammal Center in Morro Bay transferred the rescued sea turtle to the Aquarium with authorization from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Fisheries office for a medical evaluation, surgery, and care because of the Aquarium’s expertise in treating and releasing stranded and injured sea turtles.

When the sea turtle arrived at the Aquarium on December 11, 2023, it had an injured flipper and was in need of medical care and rehabilitation. The Aquarium’s veterinary and animal husbandry staff performed surgery on the sea turtle’s injured front flipper and had been caring for the sea turtle behind the scenes as it recovered. The animal is a subadult and is estimated to be between three and five years old.

The release location was chosen for its warm water temperatures and because it is a common migratory habitat for this sea turtle species. Aquarium volunteers conduct a monthly count of green sea turtles seen in the San Gabriel River through a community science program.

The Aquarium of the Pacific has rehabilitated and released sea turtles since 2000. Some have been fitted with satellite tracking devices that allowed scientists to gather data about their migration patterns and habitats. The sea turtle released on May 16 is fitted with a microchip ID and also a microsatellite tag that was provided and applied by Upwell Turtles. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, breeding colony populations of green sea turtles in Florida and on the Pacific Coast of Mexico are listed as endangered; all others are listed as threatened.