Viera, Florida — Last weekend, Brevard Zoo Sea Turtle Healing Center volunteers had their hands full caring for a record-breaking 74 "washback" baby turtles that were beached by Hurricane Nicole's powerful swells, according to Florida Today.
The surf shoved more ashore all week: By Sunday, the facility had taken in 366 struggling tiny turtles that were rescued from Space Coast beaches — five times the earlier total.
Of those 366 washbacks, 297 remained alive by noon Sunday. The survivors included 283 loggerheads, 10 green turtles and four hawksbill turtles, said Shanon Gann, sea turtle rehabilitation assistant.
They likely hatched a month or two ago. Most were exhausted by the time they hit the beach.
By midweek, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials may launch a boat from Fort Pierce to transport the turtles back to their Sargasso Sea home, Gann said. This floating habitat of sargassum algae typically lies 30 to 35 miles off the Brevard County coast.
"With the washback situation, this is just a big wrench in their long-term plan. We don't know what's actually going to happen, if these guys will be strong enough and robust enough to survive," she said.