The Turtle Hospital. Rescue, Rehab, Release.

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

2010 has been an incredibly difficult year for The Turtle Hospital and Florida’s wildlife. In January, when temperatures plummeted into the thirty’s, 5,000 sea turtles stranded throughout the state. Of those, 188 were rescued and treated at The Turtle Hospital. The Turtle Hospital has recovered from the cold stun crisis, but with the impending hurricane season almost upon us, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has potential to  cause more damage than anything the hospital has faced in the past.

In preparation for the worst, emergency tanks (used during hurricanes and during the cold stun) are being tested. The seawater that feeds the treatment tanks and saltwater pool inside the enclosure is pulled directly from the bay. If oil contaminates the bay there will be no access to outside seawater or circulation inside the enclosure for our patients. Therefore, for the animal’s safety, the sea turtles will have to be moved into two 36,000 gallon hurricane relief tanks located behind the hospital. These tanks can be filled with seawater directly from the bay, but once a valve is closed the tanks operate on a closed recirculating system. Large sumps and protein skimmers clean and filter the water. Patients that are seriously sick or injured will be moved inside the hospital where they can be monitored and treated.

(Pictured Above: Exxon, a post hatchling Green sea turtle, was rescued December 28th 2008 found covered in oil. Mayonnaise was used to remove the oil and Exxon was eventually released.)

If the oil spill reaches the Florida Keys, The Turtle Hospital will be prepared to assist the community and local wildlife. Items necessary to clean and remove oil, such as Mayonnaise and Dawn soap, are being purchased to respond to any sea turtles or other marine life affected by the oil. Mayonnaise is safe, non-toxic and effective in cleaning sea turtles coated in oil. In addition, The Turtle Hospital will also need haz-mat suits, a shade cloth for the hurricane tanks and large quantities of synthetic sea salt for mixing artificial sea water.

For those interested in volunteering their time to assist in a possible clean-up visit Keys Spill for information.

For more on how The Turtle Hospital is preparing for disaster visit:

UPDATE May 29th:

Turtle Hospital staff continues to monitor the BP oil spill and remains in contact with DEP (Department of Environmental Protection), BP (British Petroleum) and FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife.) For now forecasts state that a light sheen of oil is near the loop current but should dissipate before reaching our coasts. All staff members of The Turtle Hospital have taken the required courses for post oil clean up and continue to remain on high alert. No sea turtles in Florida Keys waters have been reported injured from oil contamination. For now we encourage travelers to visit the Florida Keys and we continue to offer our daily guided educational programs of The Turtle Hospital at 10am, 1pm and 4pm daily.

For updates and daily trajectories visit:,subtopic_id,topic_id&entry_id(entry_subtopic_topic)=809&subtopic_id(entry_subtopic_topic)=2&topic_id(entry_subtopic_topic)=1

UPDATE 09/01/2010

urtle Hospital staff continues to monitor the BP oil spill and remains in contact with Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), British Petroleum (BP) and Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC). There are currently NO reported signs of oil in Keys waters and no sea turtles have been contaminated by oil in the keys. The Turtle Hospital does not have any patients in treatment currently due to oil.

To date, nearly 700 sea turtles have lost their lives due to oil contamination, of those nearly 80% were critically endangered Kemp’s Ridleys. However, groups like Inwater Research Group, a non-profit sea turtle research organization, have successfully rescued 509 live sea turtles which have been taken to rehabilitation facilities like the Audubon Aquarium in Louisiana.

Here are some current statistics from Inwater:

Turtle                                      Species                 Alive       *Dead      Total
Green turtle                       (Chelonia mydas)          169          23          192
Hawksbill turtle             (Eretmochelys imbricata)     15            1           16
Kemp’s ridley turtle         (Lepidochelys kempii)       305          412         717
Loggerhead turtle                (Caretta caretta)            20           51          71
Unknown turtle species                                            0           39          39
TOTAL                                                                 509          526        1035

* These are turtles that we found offshore near the spill site as of 8/16/10.

They are still currently looking for impaired sea turtles in offshore areas out of Destin, FL and Orange Beach, AL with NOAA and Unified Command.

For more information visit Inwater at: Inwater

Currently as we prepare our facility, we continue to keep our thoughts with the wildlife that is being affected by this disaster in the gulf.

For now we encourage travelers to visit the beautiful Florida Keys and we continue to offer our daily guided educational programs of The Turtle Hospital at 10am, 1pm and 4pm daily.

Visit Keys Spill for more on how you can become a certified oil-spill clean-up volunteer and stay updated on current information as it becomes available.

For more information and for daily trajectories visit: NOAA

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