Isle of Palms sea turtle release Tuesday will be last in South Carolina this year

October 2, 2017

One loggerhead sea turtle had a fishing hook stuck in its mouth. Another had been bitten by a shark. The third was just sick.

The three turtles will be returned to the ocean in a public send off Tuesday, along with a rare Kemp’s ridley, after treatment at the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston.

The release is scheduled for 3 p.m. at the beach in front the Isle of Palms County Park at 14th Ave.

The event is free and open to the public. County park fees will be charged for parking there. Arrive early or carpool — releases usually are attended by hundreds of people.

The two sea turtle species are among seven overall; each is considered threatened or endangered. The loggerhead is a popular presence on the South Carolina coast. Females crawl out of the ocean each summer to lay thousands of nests in the dunes which are watched by a virtual army of volunteer groups.

Conservation efforts and regulations such as mandated turtle excluder devices on shrimp boats have improved the nesting numbers in recent years in South Carolina to the point where biologists believe the turtle has turned the corner to recovery.

Releases are held in coordination with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

The release Tuesday will be the last public beach release of the year because sea turtles must be released in a specific range of water temperatures.

During cold months, aquarium volunteers run them as far as 60 miles offshore to release them in the warmer Gulf Stream.