Twelve Kemp's ridley sea turtles that had been cold-stunned and found on Cape Cod beaches in recent weeks were loaded on a NOAA aircraft early in the morning on Friday, November 30, at Air Station Cape Cod for a flight to Georgia, where they will be released into warmer waters.

The turtles are among many that have been cold-stunned by sudden falling water temperatures and come ashore each year on Cape Cod beaches, often in November and December. They are taken to the New England Aquarium's animal care facility in Quincy for rehabilitation and care there or sent to regional facilities for further care until they are considered well enough to be released into the wild.

These 12 turtles were ready to be released, so Allison Ferreira and Jennifer Goebel from NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office in Gloucester picked them up at the New England Aquarium facility in Quincy early this morning (about 5:30 AM) and brought them to US Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod.

A NOAA Twin Otter, normally used for right whale aerial surveys by the Protected Species Branch at the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center 's (NEFSC's) laboratory in Woods Hole, was making a trip south for a safety conference next week and offered to take the animals. The aircraft left Cape Cod Air Station just before 9 AM.

The flight will stop in Newport News, Virginia, to pick up one or two loggerhead sea turtles that have also been under rehab at the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center and are ready for release, then fly to Saint Simon's Island in Georgia, where the turtles will be released into warmer waters. The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is on nearby Jekyll Island. The Twin Otter will return in about a week to the air station and resume the NEFSC's aerial survey flights.

Christin Khan of the NEFSC's Protected Species Branch, who frequently flies on the Twin Otter for the right whale aerial surveys, was on hand to help with the effort. The 12 turtles were in banana boxes covered with towels to keep them warm. Also on hand was Coast Guard Air Station airport manager Anthony Hylinski, who helped load the animals quickly from a warm GOV to the warmed-up aircraft for the flight. The pilots were Jason Clark and David Reymore, both NOAA Corps officers.

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