QUINCY (CBS) – Dozens of sea turtles, all of them near death, rely on ‘round-the-clock care from a team of experts. The animals will call a re-purposed building on the grounds of the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy home until they’re ready to go back to the sea. It’s an expensive journey, but one advocates say is vital if the species are to survive.
“There’s 85 endangered and threatened species swimming around us right now,” explains Connie Merigo, the Director of the New England Aquarium’s rescue program. “We do think it’s going to be a bad season.”
Already this year, close to 200 sea turtles have stranded along the Cape. They include loggerheads and Kemp’s Ridley turtles. It is the “highest number of sea turtle strandings we’ve ever experienced in the history of the aquarium” says Merigo.
No one knows for sure why the animals get stranded, but all of them are hypothermic when they are found. In some cases, their body temperatures fall into the 40s, and their heart-rate drops to one or two beats per minute. Even so, with proper care, most can be rehabilitated.
A new wrinkle this season: the creatures are showing up in new locations. Typically they strand on the Cape and will turn up as far away as Truro and Provincetown. But this week, two made near-unprecedented appearances on the South Shore. One was found in Scituate on Monday and other in Hull on Tuesday.
According to Aquarium staff, people who live on Cape Cod generally know what to do when they find a stranded sea turtle on the beach. But with more of them showing up on the South Shore, there are concerns that people there won’t know what to do.
“Folks on the South Shore aren’t used to seeing turtles on the beach and may think that a hypothermic sea turtle is actually dead,” says Merigo.
Or even worse, they may think it’s a good idea to throw it back into the ocean.
In fact, you should call the New England Aquarium directly. They have a hotline set up at 617-973-5247; either they will head to the scene, or they will ask local animal control to help out. In any event, the animal will be delivered to Quincy for rehab where it can begin the long and expensive road to recovery.