Shack, the one-year-old rescued loggerhead sea turtle at Newport Aquarium will be released into the Atlantic Ocean next month, as a part of the North Carolina Sea Turtle Project. Shack was rescued last October, as a hatchling on the beach in Shackleford Shoal, N.C.
Newport Aquarium has partnered with aquariums across the country to participate in this project and aid sea turtle conservation efforts since 2003.
Through the North Carolina Sea Turtle Project, newly hatched turtles that are at risk to not make it into the water are rescued and nurtured for about a year until they are strong enough to be released back into the wild.
The first several minutes after they hatch are when these turtles are most at risk, but the majority of problems threatening them later in life aren’t natural—they’re man-made, including the fishing industry and loss of nesting habitat.
Growing and Learning
When Shack arrived at Newport Aquarium, he weighed 73 grams – about the size of an egg from your refrigerator—and could fit in the palm of your hand. After spending a year at Newport Aquarium learning to swim, find his own food and coexist with other marine life, Shack is ready to return to the ocean.
He spent the last four months hanging out with the different species of angelfish and other saltwater fish in the exhibit outside Shark Ray Bay Theater, in the Shore Gallery.
“He learned how to dive deeper, and he’s gotten used to the environment,” said Jen Hazeres, senior biologist at Newport Aquarium. Hazeres was part of the team that brought Shack back to be fostered at Newport Aquarium. In his most recent checkup, staff veterinarian, Dr. Peter Hill took Shack’s shell measurements, performed a physical exam and weight, and cleared Shack for release. He now weighs almost 7 and a half pounds.
Saving The Species
Scientists say only one out of 1,000 hatchlings has a chance of making it to adulthood. All sea turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Loggerhead sea turtles are listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.
Biologists at Newport Aquarium work closely with the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knolls Shores to rehabilitate a young loggerhead sea turtle each year. Newport Aquarium biologists travel to North Carolina each fall to release the previous year’s hatchling and pick up a new sea turtle that needs our help. The WAVE Foundation’s Aquatic Conservation Fund supports the satellite tagging of our turtles before their release.
After Shack is released, Newport Aquarium staffers will return to Northern Kentucky with a new hatchling turtle to raise over the next year. Stay tuned for that announcement.
To learn more about how you can help, see our previous post: https://aquariumworks.org/2016/05/20/endangered-species-day-rescued-loggerhead-sea-turtle-enters-new-tank/