Sea turtle rescue

The Texas State Aquarium’s Wildlife Rescue team, along with several Marine Stranding Network partners, engaged in a major sea turtle cold stunning rescue operation. From February 13 through February 23, 2021, the Aquarium admitted and cared for over 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles and released over 950 sea turtles back into their natural habitat. This monumental undertaking marks a record for the Aquarium’s Wildlife Rescue Center.  

As unprecedented cold temperatures swept through Texas in early February 2021, green sea turtles, afflicted by a hypothermic reaction called cold-stunning, were found by rescuers throughout the Laguna Madre. Our conservation partners at Padre Island National Seashore collaborated with the Texas State Aquarium and other partners to intake, document, and transport the cold-stunned turtles over to the Aquarium’s Rescue Center. Aquarium staff worked around the clock to receive, unload and care for truckloads full of cold-stunned sea turtles, and maintain the seawater systems that housed many of the impacted turtles.

Upon the sea turtle’s arrival, the Wildlife Rescue Team assessed their health conditions and promptly started treatment for cold-stunning. About 900 of these sea turtles were housed in the Rescue Center’s largest heated seawater pool, where they gradually recovered to a healthy body temperature. The rest were still not strong enough to swim but were still closely monitored.  Thanks to the skill and dedication of the Aquarium team, the vast majority of the cold-stunned sea turtles made a full recovery and were soon ready to be released.


CALL (361) 881 – 1210

What is Cold-Stunning?

What is cold stunning?
The term “cold stunning” refers to the hypothermic reaction that occurs when sea turtles are exposed to prolonged cold water temperatures. Initial symptoms include a decreased heart rate, decreased circulation, and lethargy, followed by shock, pneumonia and possibly death.

Why are sea turtles affected by cold stunning?
Sea turtles are cold-blooded reptiles that depend on external sources of heat to determine their body temperature. Therefore, in cold water they do not have the ability to warm themselves, and must instead migrate to warmer waters.

(Source: National Oceanic and Atmospherics Administration)

How is Cold-Stunning Treated?

  • Rescue

    Sea turtles are reported to authorities and are brought inside to warm up

  • Admittance

    Sea turtles are transported to our facility where they're inspected and their temperature and weight is recorded.

  • Recovery

    Turtles are placed into water to recover a healthy body temperature and regain survival skills.

  • Release

    Upon recovery, each sea turtle is released back into their natural habitat!

Sea Turtle Rescue In Action

How You Can Help

There’s several ways you can help us save sea turtles

Donate to Wildlife Rescue

As a nonprofit institution, we rely on donations from the public to operate. Your donation will go directly towards rescue, rehabilating, and whenever possible, release sea turtles and other wildlife back into their natural habitat.

Donate Here

Report a Stranded or Cold-Stunned Sea Turtle

Keep an eye on out the beaches for sea turtles that need help. If you find one, don’t touch it, but call:

  • 361-949-8173 ext. 226 (North Padre Island or in the upper Laguna Madre area)
  • 1-866-TURTLE-5 (Other areas)

Help Keep Our Beaches Clean

Sea turtles also face a number of threats besides cold-stunning, including entanglement in fishing line and plastic waste. Here’s a few ways you can help keep plastic out of the ocean and from harming sea turtles.

  • Use reusable shopping bags when you grocery shop instead of plastic bags
  • Properly dispose of monofilament line and other fishing gear when you go fishing
  • When you go to the beach, pick up your trash and encourage others to do the same