FOLLY BEACH, SC (WCSC) - In one of the last public sea turtle releases planned for the year, the South Carolina Aquarium returned three turtles to the sea Friday morning.
The turtles, Blue, Atalaya and Trawler, were all rehabilitated by the Aquarium's Sea Turtle Rescue Program, according to spokesperson Kate Dittloff.
Blue, a juvenile Kemp's Ridley, the most endangered of sea turtle species, was accidentally caught on a hook and line by a fisherman at the Folly Beach pier in July. Blue swallowed the hook and was transported to the program by SCDNR, Dittloff said.
After surgery and a few months of care, Blu was medically cleared for release. Blu was named after BLU Restaurant and Bar located at the pier where it was caught, Dittloff said.
Atalaya, an 80-pound loggerhead sea turtle, was found stranded on the beach at Huntington Beach State Park in Georgetown County in early May and was deathly ill. The turtle was emaciated, dehydrated, severely anemic and had intestinal parasites, but after treatment with fluids, antibiotics, vitamins and a healthy diet, is feisty and back to a healthy weight.
Trawler, a 123-pound juvenile loggerhead sea turtle, was captured by SCDNR research vessel "Lady Lisa" in late June. Trawler was punctured by the barb of a stingray captured in the same net and was transported to the program for treatment.
The program admits 20 to 30 sea turtles annually and many of the animals are in critical condition and some are too sick to save, Dittloff said.
To date, the program successfully rehabilitated and returned 139 sea turtles to the ocean.
The program is now treating 10 patients, with an average cost of $35 per day and an average length of stay of nine months, Dittloff said.