2009-05-21 / Island Life

ISLAND OBSERVER: TONY AMOS

Rain by the hundredths; turtle release planned

And the rain came! It fell by the hundreds (I mean hundredths), first one, then another, and a third, until a full four hundredths of an inch (0.04") fell on our town.

ARK rite of passage COURTESY PHOTO BY TONY AMOS Trey Wilsongot to release the turtle he is holding.This is a rite of passage for ARK volunteers, all of whom eventually get to release a green at the pier. He is surrounded by students were on a field trip to UTMSI from Casis Elementary School in Austin. ARK rite of passage COURTESY PHOTO BY TONY AMOS Trey Wilsongot to release the turtle he is holding.This is a rite of passage for ARK volunteers, all of whom eventually get to release a green at the pier. He is surrounded by students were on a field trip to UTMSI from Casis Elementary School in Austin. It's not going to break the drought, folks, but it was nice to see the dark clouds gathering and feel the instantaneous cooling of the air when the front passed through.

There is a local annual event that used to be big news. This year I couldn't find reference to it in the Caller Times, didn't hear it on the news, nor could I find it on-line at any of the media Web sites. I'm talking about the closing of shrimp season in offshore waters, also known as the shrimping moratorium. As well as being important for the brown shrimp and those that derive income from the shrimp industry locally, it is of importance to the ARK because we wait until shrimping stops in the Gulf of Mexico to release what I call "The Hundred-Pound Loggerheads." I believe these sub-adult loggerhead sea turtles that weigh in around 80 -150 pounds are still vulnerable to getting caught in shrimp trawls even now that shrimp boats must use Turtle Excluder Devices or TEDs.

Tony Amos is a research fellow at The University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas and director of the Animal Rehabilitation Keep. Tony Amos is a research fellow at The University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas and director of the Animal Rehabilitation Keep. By doing a search on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Web site, I found out that indeed, the closure did go into effect on May 15, and will last until mid-July. So on Saturday, May 25, at 10 a.m. we will release three of our "Hundred Pounders" from Mustang Island Gulf Beach at Marker 35. Marker 35 is a mile south of Gulf Access Road No. 1. We invite the public to see the turtles go back to the sea, but caution everyone that sometimes things don't go as we expect them to. Judy, the satellitetagged loggerhead we released in early April was only out there for a couple of weeks before she got killed (a ship strike?). We keep our fingers crossed during every release.

PHOTOS, AS PROMISED FROM LAST WEEK, FROM LEFT, YELLOW CACTUS FLOWER, PURPLE CACTUS FLOWER AND OAK TREES ALONG A RANCH ROAD. PHOTOS, AS PROMISED FROM LAST WEEK, FROM LEFT, YELLOW CACTUS FLOWER, PURPLE CACTUS FLOWER AND OAK TREES ALONG A RANCH ROAD. The ARK has handled 118 sea turtles so far this year (64 live, 54 dead - we examine all stranded sea turtles in the area, dead or alive). This is a high count for this time of year, including many green turtles. Some of these have been less than a year old - a size we seldom see here. One was, unfortunately, entangled in monofilament fishing line and was also tarred with this black sticky and smelly tar. The fishing line had bitten deeply into the turtle's shoulder, but I think the damage and infection was minimal and the turtle should recover.

The happy crowd of fourth and fifth graders is pictured watching the release of several green sea turtles at the UTMSI pier last week. Eight turtles that had been rehabilitated at the ARK were sent home, bringing the number of turtles released by the ARK in 2009 to 44. The students were on a field trip to UTMSI from Casis (pronounced "Casseece") Elementary School in Austin. The one holding the turtle is not a fifth grader, but ARK volunteer Trey Wilson, who got to release this turtle. This is a rite of passage for ARK volunteers, all of whom eventually get to release a green at the pier.

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