Rare sea turtle struggling near Bean Point rescued by divers

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Spencer Blougnt, left, Clayton Spencer and Mike McClain bring a Kemps ridley sea turtle they nicknamed “Spencer” Aug. 26 to the Kingfish Boat Ramp in Holmes Beach. They found the turtle floating in the water while on a dive trip near Bean Point in Anna Maria. Representatives from AMITW transported “Spencer” to Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota for rehabilitation. Islander Photo: Courtesy AMITW

Boaters know to keep their eye on the water as they head to their destination.

Red tide in the Gulf of Mexico and bay waters may have contributed to an unusual sighting for a group of divers heading into Tampa Bay.

A juvenile Kemp’s ridley that appeared lethargic was rescued by divers Aug. 26. Volunteers from Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring transported the animal for rehabilitation at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota.

A sub-adult Kemp’s ridley, the rarest and most endangered species of sea turtle in the world’s oceans, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, was found dead Aug. 22. It was found floating in the shallow breakwater near Sycamore Avenue in Anna Maria.

However, a Kemp’s ridley nest has never been documented by those who detail sea turtle activities on the island, where mostly loggerheads and an occasional green sea turtle nest.

Kemp’s ridleys mostly nest on the beaches of Tamaulipas and Veracruz, Mexico, the Gulf coast of Texas and infrequently in a few other U.S. states, including Florida.

“While Kemp’s ridley nesting in Florida is uncommon, juveniles and sub-adult turtles are using the Gulf coast of Florida as a developmental habitat, an area where they can find food and grow until they reach adult size,” Dan Evans, research biologist with the Sea Turtle Conservancy in Gainesville, wrote Aug. 28.

The smallest of the sea turtle species, Kemp’s ridleys grow to a carapace length of 2-2.5 feet and a weight of 85-100 pounds, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A circular carapace and large head, with a parrot-like beak, distinguish them.

“None of the Kemps we have necropsied during this current red tide bloom have been gravid females. So many of the animals that are adult-sized have been sub-adults upon exam,” Gretchen Lovewell, Mote’s stranding investigations program manager ,said Aug. 29.

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