Kemp’s ridley sea turtle release celebration

There’s no place like home and for nine rehabilitated Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, they were released back into their natural habitats at the beach in Biloxi thanks to the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies.

The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport welcomed nine Kemp’s ridley turtles with open arms after being rescued. IMMS Behavioral Ecologist Dr. Mystera Samuelson said, “They were incidently captured. That means accidentally captured by recreational fishermen here along the piers on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”

Rehab for turtles usually consists of minor surgical removal of the fishing hooks. Veterinarian Debra Moore said, “We ask fishermen to not do them because they can be caught deep in the throat and they can be torn. You can tear the turtle’s actual throat if you try pulling the hook out.”

The institute tries to release the sea turtles with seven to 30 days of their arrival. This is critical because the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is the most endangered sea turtle in the world. “They have a very small nesting area. It’s really important for us to work with these turtles, get them healthy, and get back out into the population,” said Moore.

There was a decent crowd at the release celebration including Biloxi Mayor ‘FoFo’ Gilich. The institute loves to raise awareness on the Coast about endangered turtles. “The only reason these turtles got rehabilitated is because the public trusted us to call us. We know that in the future these same people will, if they do hook a turtle by accident, or they see a dolphin in distress, they are going to call us,” said Dr. Samuelson.

The IMMS serves as an important educational outlet for the Mississippi Gulf Coast by incorporating programs for conservation, education, and research of marine mammals and their environment.

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