Clearwater Marine Aquarium gives injured, sick marine animals a new lease on life

Red tide may have a long-lasting, troublesome impact on marine life around the Bay Area, but the Clearwater Marine Aquarium stands at the ready to help.

"Here at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, we rehab all species of sea turtles that are found in Florida," stated Shelly Marquardt, CMA’s head veterinarian.

The staff are familiar with the sea turtles that frequent the Gulf Waters and are prepared for anything.

"Sea turtles strand for lots of different reasons. In Florida, we tend to see lots of boat strikes, lots of fishing entanglement or some sort of interaction with fishing gear, and we do have some of the naturally occurring events like red tide," explained Marquardt.

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Sometimes CMA employees find the turtles while monitoring the nests along the Gulf beaches and sometimes they need help from the public.

"What that entails is picking up turtles that strand, turtles that good Samaritans find out in the water or anything like that," said Marquardt. "Once they get here, we will go ahead and do what is called an intake. What that is, is a general assessment of what they look like, what's going on, kind of getting an overall of where their health status is at."

Those initial physical exams include blood work, giving fluids, and potentially some medications too. The rescued turtles are then giving some space to begin the process of getting healthy enough to go back into the wild.

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Rehabbing the turtles is crucial for the longevity of this species because many of them arrive at CMA as juveniles.  

"When we are getting them this young, we are really early in the process and we know when they get to the adult stage, which could be anywhere from 20-30 years old, that's when they are going to start reproducing," Marquardt shared. "We are kind of that really critical phase where we are trying to get them up to adulthood where they can really contribute to the population and have an impact."

One way the public can help keep these turtles out of Marquardt’s hands is by watching out for animals while boating and properly disposing of fishing lines.  

To report an injured or sick sea turtle or other marine animal contact CMA’s 24-hr Rescue Hotline at 727 441-1790 ext. 1.

To learn more about CMA’s current turtle patients you can go online at or visit them in person.

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