Big Pine, FL – FORCE BLUE received national attention this week when NBC’s TODAY Show ran a feature segment on the team’s recent, first-of-its-kind mission to study the Green Sea Turtle population of the lower Florida Keys.
The Florida Keys Sea Turtle Health Study was a collaboration between the Keys-based Turtle Hospital, FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Inwater Research Group, Loggerhead Marinelife Center and FORCE BLUE.
The diverse group completed a 10-day mission last week were green sea turtles were observed, documented and samples were collected from 26 juvenile green sea turtles on the water in the lower Florida Keys.
Green sea turtles are iconic in south Florida and the Florida Keys and are an indicator of the health of our marine ecosystems. Years ago, green turtles were harvested nearly to extinction, but with protection from the Endangered Species Act, their population is recovering. But threats to their survival remain. Among the challenges, a horrific tumor disease called fibropapillomatosis is plaguing sea turtles worldwide.
The Turtle Hospital, located in the heart of the Florida Keys has been taking in sick turtles when they strand for over 30 years, but little is known about these turtles’ origins.
The project mission was to find where green sea turtles live and feed in the Keys waters, measure the incidence of FP and the turtles’ general health.
The activity permitted by National Marine Fisheries and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission consisted of spotting sea turtles from two vessels on the water, tracking the animals until the boat was close enough so that a FORCE BLUE diver and a biologist could dive into the water and grab the turtle to load it on the boat for data acquisition.
Information included measurements, skin biopsies, stomach content, bloodwork and tagging. The turtles were then returned to see. 3 of the 26 sea turtles collected were debilitated, sick from fibropapillomatosis and taken to the Turtle Hospital for rehabilitation.