VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – The Virginia Aquarium released a rehabilitated sea turtle Thursday morning.
Shredder the sea turtle was accidentally caught by a recreational fisherman off the Little Island Fishing Pier in Sandbridge May 23. The fish hook was removed at the aquarium and Shredder’s throat has healed.
A large crowd of locals and tourists showed up on the sand at 31st Street to send him off.
“The release went smoothly. He went into the ocean pretty quickly, so I thought it was great, a great turnout,” said Kristy Phillips from the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team.
Shredder’s picture gained him a lot of sympathy on social media earlier this week. Many saw a big chunk of his shell missing and were concerned he would not survive back in the wild.
So, 10 On Your Side went to see Shredder before his release and find out how ready he is for the wild.
“Well, you know, the interesting thing is Shredder wasn’t admitted because of the apparent wound in his back area that’s actually healed,” said Beth Barco, Research Coordinator at the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Center.
Barco can’t say for sure what happened to Shredder’s shell, but she told WAVY.com it is likely from either a shark bite or a boat strike a few years ago. Either way, the wound has healed on its own.
“Injuries to the back end of the shell tend to be easier for them to survive,” She said. “Their lungs are adhered to the front end of the shell.”
Shredder swims just fine, and after a round of antibiotics for his sore throat, Aquarium veterinarians, as well as the National Marine Fishery Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service, have signed off on his release.
“We want every wild turtle to be out in the wild,” Barco said. “If there’s any chance that this turtle is going to breed, we want that to happen.”
Shredder will have an acoustic tag and will be tracked alongside other sea turtles in the Chesapeake Bay and ocean by the Navy. This helps the Navy better protect sea turtles in their vicinity during exercises.