CMA Summer Camper

Clearwater Marine Aquarium Summer Camper, Josh, finding cool sealife creatures while swimming in the Gulf of Mexico at Caladesi Island.

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Immense, powerful and eternal – all words that have been used to describe the ocean. Yet in spite of its timeless beauty, most of us are starting to realize the ocean is actually a fragile place.

What’s the greatest threat facing the deep blue? Take your pick. Global fish populations are being depleted rapidly due to unsustainable fishing practices. Plastics end up as ocean debris in even the most pristine places.

plastic-bags

Photo courtesy of  Project GreenBag

Big problems? Yes. Insurmountable? No. There are things everyone – including those of us that live nowhere near the ocean – can do to help. Buy sustainable seafood (there’s an app for that). Use less plastic (use reusable canvas bags). Support organizations that protect the ocean and the amazing life within it.

It’s true that here at Clearwater Marine Aquarium we think “ocean” every day. But as folks from across the globe come through our doors, we hear wonderful stories of things that ordinary people are doing to help the big blue. They adopt an ocean friend through one of our marine life adoption programs, make smart seafood choices or they find new ways to learn more about marine conservation.

What’s one of your favorite ways to help marine life and our oceans? What advice do you have for someone just getting started?

As the Sea Turtle Nesting Team was out patrolling the beaches, they discovered a mama loggerhead nesting. This is normally done at night so it was quite a special treat to see this happening in broad daylight.

NESTING SEASON UPDATE: The 2011 sea turtle nesting season is off to a good start. As of July 5, we have found 68 nests in our patrol area which stretches from the south end of Caladesi Island State Park, through Upham Beach in St. Pete Beach. Our first nest was found on May 5, at Sand Key Park. For the 2009 nesting season our first nest was found on May 23, and as of June 22, 2010 we had found 31 nests. In 2010, we ended up with a total of 119 nests. Hopefully with the start that we have had this year, we will beat last year’s nest numbers.

Generally in our area we only see loggerhead turtle nests, but last year nest 119 was laid by a green turtle. This is the first time CMA has ever recorded a green turtle nest. This year we have already had a few unexpected surprises – we have already recorded two Kemp’s Ridley nests in our area. The last time we’ve seen these in our area was 2002. It’s already been an exciting season and it is still very early.

Nests will start hatching in the next week so it’s about to get even busier. Luckily we had a great turnout at our annual sea turtle nesting volunteer orientation meetings which were held early in June. Along with the team of eager nest sitting volunteers, we also have four enthusiastic interns, Christa, Dana, Emily, and Jessica. Also, Beverly Austin, who was a 2010 nesting intern, has stayed with us and is using her experience to help with morning patrol and to train the new interns.

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icu-nowThanks to a generous grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Recovered Oil Fund for Wildlife and the Sea Turtle Conservancy, CMA was granted enough money to revitalize the Sea Turtle ICU area. The ICU is a separate rehabilitation space dedicated to the care of sea turtles with fibropapillomatosis, or FP. FP can be a debilitating, even fatal disease where the sea turtles, mainly green sea turtles in the juvenile age class, develop cutaneous tumor-like growths that cover soft tissue, eyes, plastron and carapace. Unfortunately, the tumors can even grow internally on organs and this is inoperable. Making ICU a more quarantined, clean and environmentally controlled area will make it a better place for the care of some of CMA’s most critical sea turtle rehabilitation patients. Upgrades to the existing area include: air conditioning; a glass door for the public to view in, but to cut down on cross contamination and keep in the cool air; sink and water source; drop ceiling; new light fixtures and electrical outlets; new paint on the walls; floor drain and a closed circuit camera and video system that will allow the public to view the sea turtles without disturbing them during their rehabilitation process.

During the construction phase, which begins July 5th and will last up to 45 days, the few FP sea turtles we currently have in the ICU will be temporarily moved to another large pool on site until their new ICU area is completed. We are extremely excited to have this ability to improve our rehabilitation areas for the well-being of our animals.

We invite everyone to come in late August to check out the new and improved Sea Turtle ICU area!