580 baby sea turtles just got a head-start on life thanks to the U.S. Coast Guard.
Sea turtle populations are dangerously low, but conservation efforts like this could bring them back.
The life of a sea turtle is not nearly as delightful as Hollywood films would have us believe.
Because all seven species of sea turtle are considered endangered or at-risk.
Their nests and habitats are under constant threat from commercial fishing gear, boats, and even light pollution.
But this week, baby sea turtles got a leg, er, flipper up from the Coast Guard and a team of marine turtle specialists.
Staff at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton, Florida, teamed up with the U.S. Coast Guard to release hatchlings, aka sea turtle babies, back to the ocean.
The human helpers returned 580 hatchlings to the ocean.
The hatchlings, which were mostly loggerhead and green sea turtles, had been born in turtle nests on beaches across Florida.
The U.S. Coast Guard was a vital partner in the mission, providing the vessel and crew for the marine turtle specialists' undertaking.
The team released the hatchlings in the Sargasso Sea, a large seaweed bed five to 10 miles from shore.
Only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings survives to adulthood, so ferrying the hatchlings often gives them the best chance for survival.
Sea turtles are born in nests on the beach. They hatch from eggs, burrow out of the sand, and make their way to the ocean. Many die of dehydration if they don't make it to the water quickly enough. The tiny turtles, around two inches long at birth, are also an easy target for birds and crabs.
Delivering the hatchlings directly to the Sargasso Sea skips over this treacherous journey so early in their young lives. This way the hatchlings can live and grow in a "floating nursery," eating tiny prey and hiding from predators in the natural cover for the next three to five years until they're big enough to survive on their own.
Though life isn't easy for sea turtles, these lucky hatchlings are off to a good start.
Through hunting, poaching, and development, there's no doubt humans have done irrevocable harm to the sea turtle population.
But education and conservation efforts like this one give hope that their numbers will continue to climb, and more sea turtles can live long, healthy lives.