A new loggerhead sea turtle patient is in rehabilitation at Mote Marine Laboratory’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital after being rescued on Friday, March 27, 2020.

The adult female sea turtle was reported by a private citizen to Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program on Friday afternoon. The citizen was off Venice Jetty and spotted the turtle swimming strangely, and called Mote’s 24-hour hotline. The citizen provided coordinates of the turtle’s location and remained at a safe distance to monitor the turtle until Mote’s partners at Venice Police Department arrived on the scene to assist.

Mote’s team also coordinated with Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office to respond to the turtle, with Deputy John Fandozzi transporting Mote’s team to the turtle. Deputy Mike Watson also responded to the turtle to assist.

The turtle was swimming erratically: unable to dive more than a few feet, not staying down, and not trying to leave the area when approached. As with any new patient, the turtle was considered in critical condition upon arrival at Mote’s Hospital, and placed in low water overnight. The turtle was nicknamed “Joyce” after Venice Police Officer Paul Joyce, the first trained responder on scene.

Over the weekend, Joyce started to become more alert. Although Joyce is still in critical condition and has not eaten yet, she has passed signs of past meals. Mote’s medical care team is working to identify a possible reason for her stranding.

Mote would like to sincerely thank everyone involved in the rescue of this turtle: the private citizen that reported the turtle, Venice Police Department and Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.

See a distressed or deceased sea turtle, manatee, dolphin or whale in Sarasota or Manatee counties? It is critical to report distressed or deceased marine mammals and sea turtles to trained responders immediately. Contact Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program 24-hour hotline at 888-345-2335. Below are additional tips:

  • When calling, be ready to provide a thorough description of the animal, its behaviors, and the location.
  • Take photos and video if possible.
  • Never attempt to rescue or push back any animal in distress.
  • For other Florida counties, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC’s) Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.
  • In the southeastern U.S., call 877-WHALE-HELP (877-942-5343).

Distressed wildlife doesn’t sleep, and neither does Mote. Though Mote Aquarium and other public-facing operations are temporarily closed to protect public health amid COVID-19, Mote’s mission of marine science, education and animal rescue must and will continue. Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program continues to receive and respond to calls 24/7, and Mote’s Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital continues working around the clock to help ocean animals. With the loss of revenue from our Aquarium, support from our community means more to us than ever. Please consider making a gift at mote.org/donate or by calling Andria Piekarz at 941-388-4441, ext. 352, to take advantage of a matching grant opportunity for individual donations of up to $500.