The First Coast is an important nesting ground for the loggerhead, green and leatherback sea turtles, which means that these sea turtles will need a place to go in case any are sick or injured. Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience will break ground on Sept. 6 for their new Sea Turtle Hospital. This hospital will be unique to this area because it will be able to take in sea turtles that are infected with the deadly disease fibropapilloma(FP), which is affecting 50-70% of all green sea turtles.

The new Sea Turtle Hospital will feature four 1100 gallon tanks, approximately 30.5 bathtubs, which can hold eight to ten sea turtles at one time. Sea Turtle Program Coordinator Catherine Eastman says that they hope to only house one to two turtles in each tank, but in extreme circumstances they can hold up to four sea turtles. When the hospital opens, it will be the only one like it within 200 miles.

The hospital will also have a treatment room and a surgery suite to treat wounds, draw blood and administer medications. There will also be a food preparation area and eventually an education center where they will host events to educate the public about sea turtles.

Most turtles come to hospitals because of boating incidents, becoming entangled in fish nets or FP. The treatment of their injuries can last anywhere from two months to one and a half years. Apart from sharks, the only cause of sea turtle injuries is human related.

In order to keep this hospital up and running, the turtles will need care seven days a week, 365 days a year. It will require a large volunteer staff that will be available to feed the turtles and clean the tanks. To get involved email wlmb@whitney.ufl.edu.