Virginia Beach, Va. — The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center’s Stranding Response Team has recovered seven hooked sea turtles since the end of April, all of which were Kemp’s ridley turtles, a species that is critically endangered and part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) conservation program. Three sea turtles were recovered on Saturday, April 30 and admitted to the Darden Marine Animal Conservation Center for health assessment, which marks the highest number of hooked sea turtles recorded in the month of April, according to the Stranding Response Program; it is also the second year on record that hooked turtles have been reported in April. In conjunction with recreational fishing season, hooked sea turtle responses occur predominantly in May and June but can be seen through September. The turtles were hooked at local piers in Hampton, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach, all of which are partners in the Aquarium’s Pier Partner Program.

The naming theme for hooked sea turtles this season is ‘cereals’ as voted by the community on the Virginia Aquarium’s social media earlier this year. The sea turtles in the Aquarium’s care are stable and will be released once they meet the Stranding Response Program’s release criteria.

• Saturday, April 30 at Oceanview Fishing Pier in Norfolk o Kix and Trix were hooked in the flipper and the hooks have been removed. Both turtles are expected to recover and be released.

• Saturday, April 30 at Buckroe Fishing Pier in Hampton o Special K was hooked in its carapace or shell and the hook has been removed. Additional hook fragments are shown in its stomach on radiographs.

• Found Monday, May 2 at Virginia Beach Fishing Pier; Released Tuesday, May 3 o Fruit Loops was reported hooked and caught in a fishing line. It did not have further health concerns and met immediate release criteria. The turtle was released on Tuesday, May 3

• Friday, May 6 at Virginia Beach Fishing Pier o Cocoa Pebbles was hooked in esophagus and the hook has been removed. The turtle is recovering from the hook removal procedure and is expected to be released.

• Saturday, May 7 at Virginia Beach Fishing Pier o Granola was reported to have swallowed a hook, but no hooks were found externally or on radiographs. The turtle was released on Monday, May 9

• Saturday, May 7 at Buckroe Fishing Pier in Hampton o Grape Nuts was hooked in the corner of the mouth. The turtle is expected to be released once recovered from the hook removal procedure.

The Stranding Response Team urges anyone who sees a stranded, entangled, or hooked turtle to call the 24-hour hotline (757) 385-7575. If you hook a turtle and cannot immediately contact the Stranding Team for advice, bring it up onto the pier or boat using a net; do not attempt to remove the hook yourself. If you must cut the line, leave two feet attached. Keep the turtle contained in a quiet, shaded area until Stranding Response Team arrives.

Even a minor injury, such as a small hook in the mouth, can pose a risk to a sea turtle. To help educate local anglers and provide quality medical care for turtles, the Aquarium has partnered with local piers in the Virginia Aquarium Pier Partner Program. The four local piers — Buckroe Fishing Pier, Little Island Fishing Pier, Ocean View Fishing Pier, and Virginia Beach Fishing Pier — have signage, recovery gear and pier staff who are willing to assist when a hooked sea turtle is reported. When a hooking occurs, anglers or pier staff call the Stranding Response Program and team members are dispatched to begin triage and medical care for the turtle. Turtles with no complications or additional hooks can often be released within 24 hours. When hook removal requires advanced medical intervention or turtles are otherwise compromised, they are released back into the ocean when they are healthy which can be days to months.

The Virginia Aquarium Foundation is a 501 (c) 3, nonprofit. The purpose of the Foundation is to support the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center in its mission to inspire conservation of the marine environment through education, research, and sustainable practices. Founded in 1981, the Foundation is dedicated to the success of the Aquarium which opened its doors to the public in 1986. Over the years, the Foundation’s role in support of the Aquarium has not only included garnering financial support to pay for the Aquarium’s exhibits, animals, and habitats, but it has expanded to include funding of education programs and research and conservation efforts such as the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response and Sensible Seafood™ programs.

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