The National Aquarium, New England Aquarium and South Carolina Aquarium celebrate World Sea Turtle Day by recognizing Massachusetts legislators for introducing legislation to increase funding for sea turtle conservation. The Sea Turtle Rescue Assistance Act of 2022, introduced by U.S. Representative William Keating and U.S. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, will fill a crucial gap in sea turtle conservation by providing much-needed direct support to organizations who provide sea turtle stranding response and rehabilitation.
Organizations like the National Aquarium, New England Aquarium and South Carolina Aquarium directly contribute to sea turtle conservation while educating the public on the threats facing these threatened and endangered species, which include fishing gear and other plastic debris entanglements, boat strikes and cold-stun events that in some regions are intensifying due to climate change. As a result, the number of sea turtle strandings and the costs associated are increasing. There is no existing grant program that provides direct support to the dozens of institutions who rescue and rehabilitate critically endangered sea turtles. Aquarium partners are proud to help lead this nationwide effort to address the lack of federal support for sea turtle stranding response and rehabilitation.
"For over 30 years, the National Aquarium's Animal Health and Rescue teams have been working to rescue, rehabilitate and release sea turtles along the East Coast. This work has provided an up-close view to the challenges facing protected marine species and those who care for them" said National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli. "The National Aquarium is proud to help lead this nationwide effort to address the lack of federal support for sea turtle stranding response and rehabilitation and is appreciative of the leadership of Representative William Keating and Senator Ed Markey for introducing the Sea Turtle Rescue Assistance Act."
"For the past three decades, the New England Aquarium has been operating one of the largest sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation programs in the world with the assistance of a vast, collaborative network of rescue partners. We are grateful for support from our Massachusetts delegation so that we can all continue this important conservation work and life-saving care," said New England Aquarium President and CEO Vikki N. Spruill.
"The South Carolina Aquarium has been dedicated to rehabilitating sick and injured sea turtles for over 20 years. Sea turtles are ambassadors for conservation and drive awareness and actionable change for a better tomorrow," says South Carolina Aquarium President and CEO Kevin Mills. "Their stories are critical to connecting people to water, wildlife and wild places, and we are grateful to lend our voice in the movement to secure federal financial assistance to continue this meaningful work."
Thanks to a nationwide sea turtle funding effort led by the National Aquarium, New England Aquarium, and South Carolina Aquarium, three dozen bipartisan members of Congress and 42 institutions from 22 states and territories have already endorsed calls for funding sea turtle stranding response and rehabilitation. The Sea Turtle Rescue Assistance Act builds on that momentum by creating a permanent grant program to support organizations responding to and caring for threatened and endangered sea turtles.
Each year, hundreds of cold-stunned sea turtles wash up on the beaches of Cape Cod. Because of the rapidly changing water temperature and wind pattern, many turtles cannot escape the hook-like area of Cape Cod Bay before becoming hypothermic. Starting in October, staff and volunteers with sea turtle stranding network partners begin to comb the beaches looking for stranded, hypothermic turtles that are then transported to the New England Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital. The turtles are triaged and treated for life-threatening conditions, including pneumonia and dehydration. Once the turtles are stabilized, veterinarians examine animals that need further care before they can be released back into the wild and clear others for travel to partner facilities, including National Aquarium and South Carolina Aquarium, to continue rehabilitation.
The National Aquarium, New England Aquarium and South Carolina Aquarium participate in the AZA Saving Animals from Extinction (SAFE) Sea Turtle program, which is focused on making significant contributions to the conservation of sea turtles, specifically the Kemp's ridley and the Eastern Pacific leatherback.