Friday, January 27, 2017

Saving Sea Turtles - a new documentary

On Saturday January 14th, NECWA staff and family members headed down to Cape Cinemas in Dennis, MA, to attend the world premiere of “Saving Sea Turtles: Preventing Extinction.” This documentary was narrated by Dr. Sylvia Earle, with filming and editing by Michele Gomes and Jennifer Ting. Saving Sea Turtles chronicled the activities of dedicated staff and volunteers all over the country who help save endangered sea turtles.
Program for documentary viewing at Cape Cinema, Dennis, MA.
Each fall and early winter staff at Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary coordinate volunteers to walk Cape Cod beaches in search of cold-stunned sea turtles. Many species of sea turtles migrate to the waters off New England to feed over the course of the spring, summer, and fall. Most of the turtles in this area are juveniles who are looking for warm, productive waters to feed. As winter approaches, sea turtles must migrate south to warmer, more tropical waters. As they move past New England, some become trapped in the arm of Cape Cod and are unable to find their way out. As water temperatures in Cape Cod Bay continue to fall, these individuals become cold-stunned, a hypothermic condition caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures.

Cold-stunned sea turtles are now at the mercy of the currents and waves and will eventually wash ashore, typically on the northern beaches of Cape Cod. Once stranded, these animals are now in trouble for they are exposed to colder air temperatures and to predators. Unable to move or defend themselves, these turtles will quickly die if not rescued.

The species of sea turtles that strand on Cape Cod are the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii), the Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas), the Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta), and the Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate). The Kemp’s Ridley strands in the highest numbers and is the smallest sea turtle in our area. Regardless of the species, the majority of sea turtles that strand are juveniles that are not old enough to reproduce.

During the 2014 stranding season, a huge increase in the number of stranded cold-stunned sea turtles occurred on Cape Cod with more than 1,200 washing ashore. Dealing with large numbers of stranded individuals resulted in long, stressful days not only for rescuers on Cape Cod, but also for rehabilitators in Quincy with the New England Aquarium. Filming this busy season and showing how everyone came together to help out was the main focus of this documentary.

View of Discussion Panel at Cape Cinema
Filmmakers Michele Gomes and Jennifer Ting, highlighted efforts by Mass Audubon, NECWA, and the New England Aquarium to rescue as many of these sea turtles as possible. The documentary also looked at the research and conservation activities occurring in other parts of the United States as well as Mexico. Through efforts to protect nesting beaches, nesters, and hatchlings, and to restore nesting beaches, Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles are once again nesting along the shores of Texas. Michelle and Jenny did an incredible job of providing a comprehensive and fascinating look into the work of individuals and organizations that work together to conserve and protect these amazing animals.

There was a huge turnout for this premiere, and not surprisingly, it was sold out! Check out their website to learn more about this documentary and to find showings near you.

NECWA collaborates with Wellfleet Bay by assisting with rescues of cold-stunned sea turtles on Cape Cod. Krill, Tammy, Sammy, Carly, Jessica, Courtney, Belinda, Dawilmer, Mary, and other members of NECWA have and continue to walk specific beaches for Mass Audubon looking for stranded turtles. They also help transport cold-stunned sea turtles from Cape Cod to Quincy, conduct preliminary exams, and assist in necropsies (animal autopsies) of deceased individuals each January and February.

Rescued Kemp's ridley sea turtles in Krill's truck for transport to Wellfleet Bay.
You can do your part by supporting NECWA through a donation of any size. NECWA is an all-volunteer organization so all donations support our many projects and activities. To to our website at to support today. Also, keep an eye out for cold-stunned sea turtles while walking the beaches of Cape Cod in the fall and early winter. If you spot a stranded sea turtle, contact staff at Wellfleet Bay by 508-349-2615 ext.6104. Call NECWA at 508-566-0009 if you find a stranded ocean sunfish, dead or alive, for we rescue and study this unusual species of fish that also strands on the shores of New England each fall and early winter.