By Team

MARATHON (CBSMiami/FKNB) – Staff from the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital released a rehabilitated green sea turtle back to the ocean to mark Earth Day Friday.

Several hundred onlookers gathered on Marathon’s Sombrero Beach to cheer the release of “TJ Sharp,” a 65-pound juvenile sea turtle that was rescued in February. The endangered reptile was discovered floating offshore, unable to dive and visibly affected by fibropapillomatosis, a condition that causes cauliflower-like tumors and affects sea turtles around the world.

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TJ’s condition upon arrival at the Turtle Hospital required surgical removal of the tumors and treatment with broad-spectrum antibiotics, fluids, vitamins, and a nourishing diet of greens and mixed seafood.

“Sea turtles are the oldest animal known to man — to be able to take a sea turtle, rehabilitate it and return it to its ocean home on Earth Day, it’s just an amazing day,” said Bette Zirkelbach, manager of the Turtle Hospital.

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Zirkelbach said that although Earth Day is recognized once a year, humans can take daily steps to protect marine resources and the survival of sea turtles.

“What people need to do to make every day Earth Day is to reduce single-use plastics, keep trash out of our oceans and help keep our planet clean,” Zirkelbach added.

Keys visitors and residents are commemorating Earth Day’s significance with outdoor activities throughout the weekend, including Mote Marine Laboratory’s 10th Annual Ocean Fest: A Community Celebration, Saturday, April 23, in Key West.

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