After the annual stranding season for sea animals on Cape Cod, 64 sea turtles are in critical condition with hypothermia and are being treated at the New England Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Hospital in Quincy, officials said in a statement Wednesday.
From November to January, hundreds of cold-stunned sea turtles washed up on the Cape Cod shores. This season, 518 were treated at the Quincy hospital. While most were transferred to secondary rehabilitation facilities, the 64 with hypothermia and other life-threatening medical conditions will remain in Quincy for long-term treatment, the aquarium said.
“We’d love to keep them all, but we don’t have the space,” Adam Kennedy, director of rescue and rehabilitation, said in a phone interview. “The ones that are really sick stay with us, and from there, those are the turtles we are doing bloodwork and radiographs on.”
The turtles will receive individualized treatment for conditions including pneumonia, sepsis, bone infection, and dehydration. Most are expected to complete treatment in eight months and return to the ocean by the summer, the aquarium said.
“Historically, we have an 80 percent survivorship rate, which is really good given that the turtles are in critical condition, and if we weren’t doing this work none of them would survive,” Kennedy said.
Each year, aquarium staff and volunteers have a tradition to name the sea turtles according to a theme. This year the theme is pasta and noodles. So far, the names have been Fusilli, Lasagna, and Orzo, and also Udon and Couscous.
Past themes have included Sesame Street characters, Disney characters, and dog breeds, Kennedy said.
“Folks tend to remember the names more than the number,” Kennedy said. “To put a name to a turtle helps people understand these guys and get volunteers involved.”
Though the stranding season is cyclical, the number of stranded turtles is increasing. In 2000, only 50 washed up, while more than 800 washed up in 2022, according to the aquarium. The cause is difficult to pinpoint, Kennedy said, but it’s in part due to the warming of the Gulf of Maine and more unpredictable weather phenomena.
Kennedy encouraged those who wish to help to donate to the hospital or volunteer.
“I grew up in Massachusetts, and when I started volunteering, I was shocked that there were so many sea turtles in Cape Cod Bay,” Kennedy said. “It’s important that people understand that this is happening.”
Kate Armanini can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @KateArmanini.