Over the course of the last two weeks, direct onshore winds pushed several sea turtle hatchlings back onto St. Johns County beaches, resulting in over 250 volunteers being called into action to survey the coastline.
This year’s nesting season resulted in 766 known sea turtle nests — a 230% increase over last year.
“With such a large number of sea turtle nests, it was imperative that there were enough volunteers to help the sea turtles,” said Jade Dupuis in the St. Johns County Parks and Recreation division. The county provided an hour-long training session to prepare its volunteers for just such an event.
The fledgling sea turtles, known as “washbacks”, traveled the Gulf Stream to the Sargasso Sea; a large layer of seaweed that travels with the ocean currents. The Sargasso Sea is a region in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. Ideally, the hatchlings reach the floating seaweed refuge and use it as cover from predators until they are mature.
The Habitat Conservation Section worked closely with the volunteers to collect and safely transport the washbacks to Volusia Marine Science Center where they receive professional care and their recuperation can be closely monitored.
When they show signs of improvement, the turtles are transported off shore and deposited back into the Sargasso Sea where they will grow and spend time foraging until they reach an age where they will enter their migratory destiny.