Endangered sea turtle released to San Gabriel River

The rehabilitated sea turtle makes her way over the soggy sands of Seal Beach to return to the San Gabriel River. Courtesy photo

Aquarium of the Pacific staff members transported a green sea turtle to the water’s edge and released it near the mouth of the San Gabriel River in Seal Beach on Tuesday morning, Oct. 8 at 10:30 a.m.

Members of the Long Beach aquarium’s veterinary and animal husbandry staff released a rehabilitated female green sea turtle weighing 160 pounds, on the sandy beach about 100 to 200 feet from the parking lot near the city of Seal Beach-owned building at 15 First St.

The sea turtle was fitted with a microchip ID and metal flipper tag. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, breeding colony populations of green sea turtles in Florida and on the Pacific Coast of Mexico are listed as endangered; all others are listed as threatened.

The sea turtle was transported from where it was originally stranded and rescued in the San Gabriel River to the Aquarium of the Pacific. Marine Animal Rescue brought it to the Aquarium with authorization from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries office for a medical evaluation and care because of the Aquarium’s expertise in treating and releasing stranded and injured sea turtles. An identification tag showed that this turtle had been previously examined in 2014 by NOAA sea turtle biologists in the San Gabriel River. Since then it has grown about 8 inches and gained about 90 pounds.

When the sea turtle arrived at the aquarium about a month ago, it was weak and dehydrated. X-rays identified a fishing hook lodged in the esophagus near the stomach. Endoscopic surgery was used to remove the hook and attached fishing line, which can prove fatal to sea turtles if left untreated. It took about one month for the sea turtle to recover and resume eating and for the aquarium’s veterinary team to determine the sea turtle was healthy for release.

The release location was chosen for its warm water temperatures and because it is a common migratory habitat for this sea turtle species. Aquarium volunteers conduct a monthly count of green sea turtles seen in the San Gabriel River through a citizen science program. To learn more, visit aquariumofpacific.org and click on Conservation.

The Aquarium of the Pacific has rehabilitated and released several sea turtles in recent years, including the most recent one in August of 2019. Some have been fitted with satellite tracking devices that allowed scientists to gather data about their migration patterns and habitats.

The nonprofit Aquarium of the Pacific is a community gathering place where diverse cultures and the arts are celebrated and where important challenges facing our planet are in search of sustainable solutions.

Home to more than 12,000 animals, Aquarium exhibits includes the new Pacific Visions wing.

The Aquarium offers educational programs for people of all ages, from hands-on activities to lectures by leading scientists. Field trips for schoolchildren are offered at a heavily discounted rate from $7 to $8.50 per student.

The Aquarium offers memberships with unlimited free admission for 12 months, VIP Entrance, and other special benefits. Convenient parking is available for $8 with Aquarium validation.