MARATHON (CBSMiami/FKNB) – A young turtle found floating in a weed patch off the coast of the Keys is expected to make a full recovery.

The five-pound, foot-long turtle is believed to have been released off the shores of Colombia last June.

On Tuesday, about 22 miles off Grassy Key in the Middle Keys, a fisherman discovered the loggerhead sea turtle trailing a large clump of gooseneck barnacles and transported “Charley” the reptile to shore.

“Charley” was then picked up by the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital’s ambulance.

Saturday, hospital officials said that plastic was found in the turtle’s stool and they believe this is the reason why it was ill and floating.

“There was a fisherman out there, fishing the Gulf Stream and saw this little guy floating,” said Bette Zirkelbach, manager of the Turtle Hospital. “So they scooped him up out of the water and gave us a call where we came with our turtle ambulance and met him at the dock.”

Zirkelbach says the turtle’s prognosis is responding very well to treatment.

“He started eating right away,” she said. “He’s defecated, which is really good. That’s a step back towards the ocean.

“He’s already not floating and on the bottom of his tank,” she added. “So the prognosis is very good.”

Turtle Hospital Manager Bette Zirkelbach believes that “Charley” traveled via ocean currents some 2,000 miles from its original release point off Santa Marta, Colombia. A metal identification tag on its flipper provided the opportunity for turtle hospital officials to learn that it had been nurtured from a hatchling as part of a sea turtle headstart cooperative program between Colombia’s Jorge Tadeo Lozano University and the Mundo Marino Aquarium.

Zirkelbach said the turtle is likely to be returned to the Gulf Stream off the Keys by late May or early June.


“The Florida Keys News Bureau contributed to this report.”