A rescued juvenile green sea turtle named after Hurricane Ian was released Saturday in Gulf Stream waters off Key West by experts from the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital and members of a powerboat racing team vying for the sport’s world championship.
“Ian” was found buried in seaweed by a family cleaning up a boat ramp after Hurricane Ian’s tropical storm-force winds brushed Key West Sept. 29. Named for the storm, the tiny turtle was transported to the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, where it was treated with fluids and diet and nursed back to health.
The Turtle Hospital’s manager, Bette Zirkelbach, reported that “Ian” and 14 other young sea turtles were all released Saturday into a sargassum weed line about 20 miles off Key West in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Sargassum acts as camouflage for young turtles, making it an ideal habitat for their stage of life.
The turtles were carried to the release point by the TS Motorsports MTI powerboat, a 39-footer participating in the Race World Offshore’s Key West World Championship that concludes Sunday.
The world’s first veterinary facility of its kind, the Turtle Hospital has been rescuing, rehabilitating and returning turtles to the wild for over 30 years.
Zirkelbach said the longstanding relationship between the hospital and Florida Keys powerboat race organizers was built on a mutual desire to safeguard the sea turtles, manatees and dolphins that inhabit Keys waters. Before and during each race in the annual championship series, she and Moretti scan the racecourse from a helicopter to spot any marine wildlife that might be on or near it.