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Cold Atlantic Bad For Baby Turtles

An upwelling of deep, cold Atlantic Ocean water brought to the beach by tides and winds is affecting sea turtle hatchlings trying to reach the warm waters of the Gulf Stream.

Since July 20, nearly 1,200 cold-shocked baby turtles have been found on Flagler, Volusia and Brevard beaches.

"The water is so cold that these guys can't swim," said Michelle Bauer, a turtle specialist at the Marine Science Center at Ponce Inlet, south of the Daytona Beach area.

Bauer injects some hatchlings with a mixture of electrolytes and sugar water, much like an intravenous drip. Still, about 112 have died, she said.

When deemed healthy, the baby turtles are taken 20 to 30 miles offshore to the warmer waters of the Gulf Stream where they can seek shelter in patches of sargassum weed.

"We want to get them back out to sea as quickly as possible," Bauer said.

Although many thousands of endangered or protected sea turtles nest along Florida's east coast each year, the survival rate for hatchlings is low, and marine scientists and volunteers work through each nesting season to get as many to sea as possible.

This season, a combination of winds and currents have caused a natural upwelling of cold, deep Atlantic Ocean water along the coast, scientists say.

Monday's water temperature off Daytona Beach was 59 degrees. Farther north toward Jacksonville beaches over the weekend, it was 67 degrees. Normally, an early August reading would be in the 80s.

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