An endangered juvenile green sea turtle was released back into the wild last week after being rescued from the Apalachicola Bay in May by a local fisherman.
The turtle, affectionately named “Mayday,” was taken to Gulf World in Panama City, where it was diagnosed with pneumonia and had abscesses on its shell due to growth and debris in the water.
Mayday underwent rehabilitation for two months and on Wednesday, was finally returned to sea.
Stephanie Nagle, an Education Coordinator with Gulf World Marine Institute oversaw the process of getting Mayday back in the water.
A crowd of more than 50 spectators also lined the beach in Beacon Hill.
Nagle stressed the importance of returning the turtles close to where they find them.
“We don’t want to release them too far off the beaten path,” she said.
Mayday is believed to be between 10-12 years in age, which makes her a juvenile. Most sea turtles don’t reach maturity until they are over 20 and most live somewhere between 60-80 years.
Nagle said, “He’s just a baby.”
In addition to beach-visiting families and the media, members of the St. Andrews Turtle Watch out of Bay County were on-hand to encourage Mayday in his return to the Gulf.
After a quick rest in the sand, Mayday felt the water and quickly shuffled his way head-first into the surf. Those on shore cheered and waved good-bye. Kids kept their eyes on the turtle for as long as they could and sent words of encouragement with him.
For Nagle, seeing an event like this reminded of her of why she’d dedicated more than two years to rescuing marine mammals across the Gulf.
“Working with sea animals has been a long dream of mine,” she said. “I’m very excited to be a part of this.”
Gulf World Marine Institute is a non-profit organization and part of the Southeast Marine Mammal Stranding Network and the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network.
The group works with turtles and dolphins that need rescue rehabilitation or release and is the only long-term marine mammal rehabilitation facility in Northern Florida. Over the years, its team has come to the aid of thousands of sick or debilitated stranded marine animals. For more information on how to get involved, visit their website at www.gulfworldmarineinstitute.org.