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Mote releases sea turtle with tracking tag to improve conservation efforts

"Steve" is the 19th sea turtle released by Mote with a satellite tag.

SARASOTA, Fla. — On Tuesday, the Mote Marine Laboratory released two sea turtles back into gulf waters, and they now released another Thursday morning. 

"Steve," a male loggerhead sea turtle, was released with a satellite tag created by Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch to help marine officials with data critical for sea turtle conservation efforts. 

"Rehabbing and releasing turtles is what we work for and strive for, and today's release is just as rewarding as the first turtle I released with Mote 23 years ago," Lynn Byrd, Mote's Rehabilitation and Medical Care manager, said in a statement. "'Steve' suffered from neurotoxicity due to red tide exposure, and had we not intervened, he would have died.

"With this second chance at life, 'Steve' is able to provide valuable research data for the conservation of his species as the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch outfitted him with a satellite tag, which can be tracked on Mote's website."

"Steve" was transported to Mote's sea turtle rehabilitation hospital after he washed ashore on Captiva in Lee County back in March of this year, officials said in a news release. 

The loggerhead sea turtle appeared to be affected by toxins from red tide, and marine officials treated him with injectable antibiotics and subcutaneous fluids until his toxicity symptoms improved. "Steve" was determined to be ready for release after spending two months in rehabilitative care. 

The satellite tag he was given is attached to his shell and sends a message to a satellite each time the turtle comes to the surface to breathe, the news release reads. This then allows researchers to know the location of the turtle and plot it onto a map.

"Male sea turtles do not return to land after they leave the beach as hatchlings unless they are injured or sick. Therefore, they are a more elusive group to study," leaders from Mote Marine Laboratory said in a statement. "By satellite tagging adult male loggerheads that stranded and received hospital care, scientists can learn more about post-release behavior of rehabilitated turtles as well as behavior, habitat, home range and migratory pathways of adult male loggerheads in the Gulf of Mexico."

"Steve" is the 19th sea turtle released by Mote with a satellite tag. To track his movements out in the water, click here. 

Here are other achievements completed by Mote officials regarding the release of sea turtles: 

  • In 2022, Mote's Sea Turtle Hospital rehabilitated and released 29 sea turtles
  • Since the Sea Turtle Hospital opened in 1995, Mote has released 841 sea turtles
  • Mote's Sea Turtle Hospital currently has three more sea turtle patients, two of which have experienced some symptoms related to red tide exposure.

Marine officials say they want to remind people if they see a stranded or dead sea turtle, dolphin or whale in waters in Sarasota or Manatee counties, call Mote's Stranding Investigations Program at 888-345-2335. The number is a 24-hour response service. 

Those who see a stranded or dead manatee anywhere in state waters or a harmed sea turtle, dolphin or whale, outside of Sarasota or Manatee counties, contact the FWC Wildlife Alert hotline at 1-888-404-3922.

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