CORPUS CHRISTI – An influx of stranded loggerhead sea turtles along the Texas coast has forced the Texas State Aquarium to implement emergency housing for the first time in its rescue history.
The Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi said that since July, it has cared for 40 loggerhead sea turtles that washed ashore either injured, underweight, emaciated or otherwise showed strange behavior.
The staff is currently treating 27 turtles that were relocated to its program from other rescue organizations in the area.
Because the turtles are so large — they weigh around 150 to 200 pounds each — and are aggressive if they’re in close proximity to one another, the aquarium said they quickly reached capacity.
The aquarium decided to relocate its sea turtle operations to the nearby 26,000-square-foot Striker Building at the Port of Corpus Christi.
Rescue staff started preparing the emergency housing in mid-September by repurposing a dam flood control system into a sea turtle habitat.
That habitat holds 40,000 gallons of water and includes two 20-foot by 70-foot pools.
The pools can hold up to 24 sea turtles each, the aquarium said. Each turtle has about 60 square feet of space.
The aquarium said all of the turtles were moved to the Striker Building by mid-October. People will be able to visit the emergency housing in March.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is grateful to the Texas State Aquarium and Port of Corpus Christi for stepping up quickly with a creative solution,” Mary Kay Skoruppa, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Sea Turtle Coordinator for Texas, said in a news release. “With approximately 125 sick loggerheads needing care in Texas since April, our partner rehabilitation facilities soon reached capacity. Without the quick action from the Aquarium and the Port, we would have been faced with transporting loggerheads to out-of-state facilities, a costly operation that would have put additional stress on the turtles.”
The aquarium said the cause of the ill turtles is unknown.
Loggerhead sea turtles are found around the world, and nine of its population segments are either listed as endangered or threatened, according to NOAA.
They primarily nest along the coasts of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, but can occasionally visit the Texas coast, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.