GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Eight more endangered Kemp's Ridley turtles are back in their natural habitat. The U.S. Coast Guard assisted the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in releasing the sea turtles late Friday morning near Ship Island. The turtles are among some 300 which have been rehabilitated this year at the IMMS.
Turtle crates were loaded aboard the boat at Coast Guard Station Gulfport. Minutes later they were taking a 20 minute trip offshore to the release site, near Ship Island. More than a good will gesture by the Coast Guard, the trip is also for training.
"We've got a person onboard today, it's his second time underway. So we do a lot of track line training, figuring out distances, how much time it's going to take to get out there. But the whole time we're training," said Coast Guard senior chief, Rebecca Polzin.
It doesn't take long to release the eight animals. They are the latest among some 300 turtles the IMMS has nursed back to health this year.
Intern Melissa Conley helps care for the animals, but this is the first time she's watched a release.
"It makes me feel awesome. Awesome," said Conley.
Colton Svabek never expected a turtle release would be a part of his Coast Guard duty.
"You wanna go for a swim?" he asked the turtle.
It's a lifetime experience.
"Releasing an endangered animal back into the wild, into the water, is just phenomenal. There's no words that can describe it," said Syabek.
"I always feel like so much money is in my hands when I'm holding that," said Katie Allen, an intern at IMMS from London, England.
She discovered the IMMS internship online. It's been a rewarding summer, including two turtle releases.
"It's really nice. And sometimes you see them skim across the water, so you can see them as they swim off. It's just a really great feeling, that without the center they might have died," said Allen.
There's a good chance the eight will not only survive, but thrive.