Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
Two Sick Sea Turtles Take Huge Step in Quest to Return to Wild
Two threatened sea turtles rehabbed in Washington and Vancouver BC transferred to San Diego for final rehabilitation and release.

April 21, 2016

Contact(s):

Laura Todd, FWS, 541-867-4558 ext. 237/541-961-6904, laura_todd@fws.gov
Tim Kuniholm, Seattle Aquarium, 206-386-4345, t.kuniholm@seattleaquarium.org
PAC David Mosley, U.S. Coast Guard, 206-220-7093, David.B.Mosley@uscg.mil
David Koontz, SeaWorld San Diego, 619-226-3619, David.Koontz@SeaWorld.com


Tucker, a male olive ridley sea turtle that has been rehabbing at the Seattle Aquarium, and Comber, a Pacific green sea turtle that has been rehabbing at Vancouver Aquarium in Vancouver, BC. The turtles were found comatose, hypothermic and malnourished following winter storms in Oregon and Canada. The olive ridley is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, and the Pacific green sea turtle is listed as threatened. Credit: Elizabeth Materna / USFWS

SEATTLE –Two distressed sea turtles rescued on the coast after winter storms have taken an important next step in their journey to return to the ocean. Today, they caught a flight in Seattle aboard a U.S. Coast Guard C-130 transport plane to finish their rehabilitation at Sea World San Diego before eventual release to their home waters in the Pacific Ocean.

Tucker, a male olive ridley sea turtle that has been rehabbing at the Seattle Aquarium, and Comber, a Pacific green sea turtle that has been rehabbing at Vancouver Aquarium in Vancouver, BC. The turtles were found comatose, hypothermic and malnourished following winter storms in Oregon and Canada. The olive ridley is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, and the Pacific green sea turtle is listed as threatened.

“This is a great example of teamwork and collaboration to save these two turtles,” said Laura Todd, Newport (Oregon) Field Office Supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Reports from the public, emergency transport from the beach, intensive care at the treatment facilities, return to warmer waters, and eventual release are all crucial steps in the process.  This work couldn’t be done without highly capable partners like the Seattle Aquarium, Vancouver Aquarium, the U.S. Coast Guard, and SeaWorld.” 

Tucker and Comber are expected to complete their rehabilitation at SeaWorld San Diego in preparation for release later this summer.

“We’re very excited that SeaWorld will continue the rehabilitative care of Tucker and Comber,” said Mike Price, SeaWorld San Diego’s assistant curator of fish. “It also great to work with a dedicated team from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Seattle Aquarium, Vancouver Aquarium and our friends at the Coast Guard as together we give these amazing sea turtles a second chance at life.”

The U.S. Coast Guard is using this opportunity to train for other emergency situations that could involve passengers requiring critical care during the flight.

"Allowing our aircrews to transport a distressed sea turtle while accomplishing routine training makes this mission particularly satisfying." said David Mosley, public affairs officer with the U.S. Coast Guard.

The strandings, once a relatively rare occurrence, have become a greater concern as more turtles are being stranding on beaches in the Pacific Northwest. Sea turtles do not reach the Pacific Northwest beaches unless injured or sick, and once stranded, they require immediate care to survive. 

This winter, a record 10 sea turtles washed ashore on beaches in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, and only three have survived. If ocean conditions and weather patterns continue as they have the last couple of years, more turtles are expected to arrive in the future. Care facilities were at their maximum capacity with four turtles this year, so the Service is examining alternatives for increasing capacity.

“This is an important issue for the future of stranded sea turtles,” Todd said. “We have great partners, but we’re all stretched to the max trying to provide quality care for these turtles. We are working at all of our partners to expand rehab facilities here in the Pacific Northwest. While we’d all like the trend of more stranded turtles to reverse, we have to be diligent and prepare for the worst.”

Anyone who sees a stranded sea turtle should immediately note its location, remain nearby to observe it if possible and contact the Oregon State Police Tipline at 800-452-7888 or the Marine Mammal Stranding Network in Oregon, Washington, and California at 1-866-767-6114.


The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel and download photos from our Flickr page.