Texas A&M Galveston Assists in Saving Sea Turtles from Death Due to Extreme Cold

The arctic cold front that dropped temperatures so quickly along the Texas Coast caused sea turtles to become cold-stunned, killing many. Faculty and staff at Texas A&M University at Galveston stepped up to help the sea turtle community in Texas save these sea turtles. "Since the extreme cold weather began in the Texas Coastal region there have been more than 2000 cold-stunned turtles rescued, which breaks all records in Texas," said Dr. Christopher Marshall, professor of Marine Biology at Texas A&M Galveston. "This historic event overwhelmed rescuers at the Padre Island National Seashore where most of the rescue efforts was occurring. About 200 or more green sea turtles from Padre Island and Matagorda Bay were brought to Galveston this week to be treated."

It all began around mid-December when the Texas coast received the first cold snap and then just last week's extremely cold temperatures, especially in the Padre Island area where turtles are often found in shallow waters, caused a dire situation.

"When the water temperature gets below 50 degrees their bodies will basically shutdown." said Marshall. "The cold-stress and hypothermia can lead to pneumonia and other serious health issues. If they are not rescued, most will likely die."

Turtles were brought to the NOAA Fisheries Galveston Laboratory Sea Turtle Hospital where NOAA staff have been working around the clock. Colleagues at NOAA requested assistance so Dr. Marshall, Katherine St. Clair, manager of the Texas A&M Galveston Sea Life Safety Lab and 6 students, as well as other members of the local sea turtle community, have been assisting NOAA staff to sort, treat and tag the turtles so they can brought back to good health and released. Green sea turtles are a threatened species in Texas.

The sea turtle cold-stunning event was nation-wide, impacting sea turtles in Florida and up the east coast.