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Coast Guard Helps Release Two Rehabilitated Sea Turtles Off Florida Keys

ISLAMORADA, Florida Keys — The U.S. Coast Guard does more than rescue boaters and interdict drug smugglers at sea. They also help release sea life back into the ocean.

Yesterday they they released two endangered sea turtles, rehabilitated at the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital and they also participated in each of the turtles’ initial rescues.

“Emma,” a 150-pound female loggerhead sea turtle was rescued in June after she was found floating in the Atlantic Ocean off Islamorada. After being rescued by personnel from Coast Guard Station Islamorada, Emma was taken to the Turtle Hospital in Marathon where treatment included emptying excess air out of her body cavity and a regimen of fluids, vitamins and diet of fish and squid.

“Bubbles,” a 225-pound adult female green sea turtle was found entangled in an abandoned fishing trap line by recreational boaters in mid-June, off Long Key. Officers from Coast Guard Station Marathon assisted Turtle Hospital staff with the rescue.

The entanglement injury caused irreparable damage to Bubbles’ rear flipper resulting in amputation surgery. Bubbles was also treated for pneumonia, and received daily nebulizer treatments, antibiotics, wound care, laser treatment, fluids, vitamins and a diet of lettuce, green peppers, cucumbers and natural sea grass.

U.S. Coast Guard First Class Petty Officer Michael Lees, who has served the last two years of his 10-year tenure in the Keys, described the rescue and subsequent release of the sea turtles as a rare treat.

“It’s very fulfilling to see the final result of a turtle rescue,” Lees said. “In most of our cases involving people, it’s kind of an open-and-shut case,” he added. “Rarely do we get to see the actual release of the turtle, and that’s very fulfilling and we’re very grateful we were allowed to do so.”

Lees said that the Coast Guard plays other important roles beyond human marine safety.

“One of the Coast Guard’s missions is marine stewardship, and part of that is living, marine resources, so it’s something we don’t get to do as often but whenever that opportunity comes up it’s something that we really enjoy doing.”

Since 1986, the Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys has been rescuing, rehabilitating and returning sea turtles to the wild.