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Public invited to sea turtle release
Apr 26, 2013, 19:06

Gulf Coast residents are invited to join the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies today, Saturday, April 27 at 9:30 a.m. as they release six rehabilitated sea turtles back to the ocean. IMMS will be releasing five juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtles and one juvenile green sea turtle.
These turtles were rescued last year, treated for serious injuries, and rehabilitated at IMMS facilities over the winter. These turtles will be released from the beach just west of the Pass Christian harbor. One of the turtles will be satellite tagged so that its movements can be tracked. The public can follow the turtle’s journey by visiting www.imms.org.
Father Louis Lohan will be present to bless the turtles’ journey back to their natural habitats, which are the reefs in the western Mississippi Sound. Pass Christian’s Mayor Chipper McDermott will be the emcee for the event. “This event will be a celebration of the great natural resources, such as these turtles, in coastal Mississippi, and the tireless efforts IMMS spends to conserve them,” Mayor McDermott said.
IMMS president Dr. Moby Solangi noted the important role that these turtles play in local ecoystems.
“Sea turtles and dolphins are sentinel species that can be reliable indicators of ecosystem health and thus deserve our attention, especially in light of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” Solangi said. “We are very thankful of the great support that IMMS receives from the great citizens of the Mississippi Gulf coast along with the support from our State and Federal Government.”
“The northern Gulf of Mexico has been historically understudied regarding sea turtles, so our research, stranding response, and rehabilitation efforts have shed new light on the ecology and conservation of the critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle,” Dr. Coleman said.
In the mid 1980s, the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle population was on the brink of extinction. Thanks to intense conservation efforts on the main nesting beach at Rancho Nuevo, Mexico and on foraging grounds throughout the Gulf of Mexico, this species was experiencing a recovery prior to the 2010 oil spill. Dr. Coleman and Dr. Jonathan Pitchford, Senior Research Scientist leading IMMS restoration ecology research, have recently initiated a study to examine the potential benefits that artificial reef and oyster habitats provide to Kemp’s ridleys and one of their favored prey: blue crabs. According to Dr. Jonathan Pitchford, “We believe that our findings will provide answers to many questions about the role of reef habitats for achieving a healthier ecosystem, which will ultimately improve our ability to manage critical developmental habitat for Kemp's ridleys,”
IMMS asks the public to contact the IMMS stranding hotline, 1-888-SOS-DOLPHIN (1-888-767-3657), if they observe any stranded sea turtles, nesting sea turtle activity, or incidentally captured sea turtles on fishing piers or boats.
Saturday’s public release will help educate the general public on the importance of Kemp’s ridleys and IMMS efforts in the restoration and recovery of the species. IMMS invites all to attend and witness the release of these six turtles. After the release, the public can monitor the journey of one turtle by visiting www.imms.org. Recently released turtles have traveled as far as Mexico.


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