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Warmer water delays season for stranded sea turtles

Warmer ocean temperatures mean a record late start for annual stranding season, says New England Aquarium.

WELLFLEET BAY—More cold-stunned sea turtles are washing ashore later than usual, a possible sign of the effects of climate change on the Gulf of Maine.

Scientists with the New England Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital in Boston say they have treated 170 stranded turtles for hypothermia since Nov. 18, a record late start for the annual stranding season, said Adam Kennedy, the Aquarium's director of rescue and rehabilitation.

All but three of the turtles were rescued from Cape Cod beaches by Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary staff and volunteers.

“In 10 days we’ve received well over 150 animals," Kennedy said. "Certainly, if that holds up, I would imagine we are on pace to get another 700 live animals coming in to the facilities here.”

More than 700 sea turtles were reported stranded in Massachusetts last year. Many become trapped in Cape Cod Bay and are unable to migrate to warmer waters, resulting in dehydration and pneumonia.

If you come across a stranded sea turtle:

  1. Move the turtle above the high tide line. 
  2. Cover it with dry seaweed.
  3. Mark it with a piece of driftwood.
  4. Call the Wellfleet Bay hotline: 508-349-2615 x6104.

The Aquarium has launched a Giving Tuesday campaign to help support sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation.

Patrick Flanary is a dad, journalist, and host of Morning Edition.