CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — More than 2,000 rescued sea turtles have been released back into the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico off the coasts of Corpus Christi and South Padre Island.
Coast Guard crews, state agencies and volunteers released 146 turtles near Corpus on Monday.
They were part of the 1,000 cold-stunned turtles rescued last week and transported to rehab centers.
Rescuers had to find Gulf of Mexico waters at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit to safely release the rehabbed turtles.
“Working with our partners in the Texas State Aquarium and Texas Game Wardens to release these animals back into the wild is a surreal experience,” said Coast Guard Ensign Austin Sawicki. “Getting to play a small part in keeping the green sea turtle population safe is a very rewarding experience.”
Down off the coast of South Padre, more than 2,000 stunned turtles were released over the weekend.
The Marine Spill Response Center transported the turtles back to warmer waters aboard the Southern Responder, a 210-foot oil spill response vessel.
The turtles, ranging in size from 25 to 400 pounds, were placed in kiddie pools and on blankets or tarps on every deck of the boat.
Photos: Rescued sea turtles released back into Gulf of Mexico
“They had warmed up and were awake and lively, flapping vigorously as we carried them onto the boat,” MSRC said in a statement. “While their enthusiasm made it a challenge to handle them, it was a reassuring sign that they would make it through the last few hours of their harrowing journey through the winter storm.”
The turtles were flapping as they slid down the ramp and into the water and paddled eagerly into the current, MSRC said.
They had been kept alive at the local convention center with generators donated to heat the building after power went out.
MSRC planned to release hundreds more turtles on Tuesday.