SEA WORLD OF CALIFORNIA AND HUBBS-SEA WORLD RESEARCH INSTITUTE REINTRODUCE "WRONG-WAY CORRIGAN"
(July 11, 1997) -- After nine months in the care of Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute (H-SWRI) scientists and Sea World of California animal care experts, an eastern Pacific green sea turtle, outfitted with a satellite transmitter, will be reintroduced into the ocean Friday, July 11. Sea World aquarists and Dr. Scott Eckert, sea turtle expert at H-SWRI, will take the 180-pound turtle five to six miles off the Pacific coast to return it to its natural environment. The severely underweight and malnourished turtle was brought to San Diego last October after two hunters picked it up near Montague Island in Prince William Sound, Alaska. They brought the turtle, later named Wrong-Way Corrigan, to the Cordova authorities. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) contacted Dr. Eckert in San Diego and flew the turtle to him. Dr. Eckert received the 140-pound turtle and turned it over to Sea World for care. Upon its arrival, Sea World veterinarians examined the turtles blood and administered fluids. For the next nine months, Sea World aquarists monitored the sea turtle and fed it fish, squid, shrimp, vitamins and minerals daily. By March the turtle had improved and was moved to H-SWRI. Sea Worlds animal care team continued its care and daily feedings. "The turtle had regained its health by March, yet the ocean temperature wasnt warm enough for the turtle to be released," said Dr. Eckert. "Now that the water is warm and the turtle is healthy, we are ready to release it."
To prepare for the reintroduction, Dr. Eckert requested permission from the NMFS to return the turtle to the ocean, gathered satellite transmitter materials, fitted the turtle for the device and arranged for the transmitter data to be sent to him via e-mail. Plans include tracking Wrong-Way Corrigan up to two years and disseminating the information through scientific journals and Sea World materials. The information collected will help scientists develop better conservation and protection plans to stop the green sea turtles rapid decline and possible extinction. "Im thrilled to have this opportunity to track a male eastern Pacific green sea turtle," said Dr. Eckert. "To my knowledge, no one has tracked a male green sea turtle before and Im interested to find out where they live, migrate, eat and how they feed. The more information we collect, the better we can determine what habitats and environments these turtles need to thrive." Wrong-Way Corrigan was found thousands of miles off course in the frigid waters of Alaska. Green sea turtles, classified as endangered, may be found along the west coasts of North and South America from California to Ecuador. Dr. Eckert has been active for almost two decades in the marine turtle research field, focusing largely on pelagic distribution and behavior. In 1984, he received the Department of Commerces National Marine Fisheries Service Recognition Award for "Outstanding efforts in sea turtle conservation." In 1989 he received his Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Georgia.
Dr. Eckerts research on sea turtles and other diving vertebrates has taken him to field sites throughout the tropical world as well as Antarctica studying the diving behavior and physiology of seals and penguins. He is a member of the United States Recovery Team for Marine Turtles, a member of the Marine Turtle Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, and co-editor of the globally distributed Marine Turtle newsletter. Dr. Eckerts most recent research is using satellite telemetry to study leatherback sea turtles and whale sharks. He is the first to track both species for more than a year. Established in 1963, H-SWRI is a private, non-profit research foundation dedicated to the study of the worlds living creatures and natural resources. Institute research encompasses bioacoustics, aquaculture, physiology conservation and ecology studies, with an emphasis on coastal ecosystems. H-SWRI is located just west of Sea World. H-SWRI also maintains a research station at Sea World of Florida in Orlando and a marine fisheries enhancement hatchery in Carlsbad, Calif.
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