San Diego: ‘Bruce’ the Turtle Goes Back to Sea

The Port of San Diego is not only catering to cruise passengers. A gravely injured turtle that was rescued from San Diego Bay last January is ready to return to the wild.

Named “Bruce” by his rescuers, the endangered Eastern Pacific Green Sea Turtle was found off the waters of the decommissioned South Bay Power Plant in Chula Vista on January 25, 2011. Underweight and lethargic, he was taken to Sea World San Diego to be evaluated.

This wasn’t the first time that the rescuers had seen Bruce. He is among the estimated 60 to 100 Eastern Pacific Green Sea Turtles that live in San Diego Bay. He was first documented in December 2009 and at that time, he weighed 322 pounds.

On January 9, 2011, Bruce was seen in the bay again. A team of researchers captured him and weighed him, noting that he had lost 66 pounds. When he appeared again on January 25, they knew something was wrong.

At SeaWorld, a team of veterinarians examined Bruce and discovered that he had been hit by a shotgun. Although shotgun pellets were found in his chin and throat, the injuries were not life threatening. Bruce remained at SeaWorld for rehabilitation, where he gained weight and made a full recovery.

Researchers at SeaWorld have tagged Bruce with a sonic monitoring system, so that they can keep track of him after he is released back into San Diego Bay. On Tuesday, October 25, he will be transported from SeaWorld by boat, which will travel from Mission Bay to San Diego Bay, and dock at the Chula Vista Harbor. There he will be released on the west side of the harbor, between 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m.

For the past eight years, the Port of San Diego has provided funding that has helped research teams track the behavior of the local endangered Eastern Pacific Green Sea Turtle population. Additionally, the Port helped purchase more than $200,000 in Global Positioning Satellite technology, audio tags and data recorders, which are used for tracking.

Researchers catch the turtles from October to April. Nets are set up in South San Diego Bay around 8 a.m. and checked every 45 minutes. When turtles are found, they are brought ashore. Blood samples are taken from the turtles and they are tagged with a transmitter and released.

As an environmental steward of San Diego Bay, the Port protects San Diego Bay and the surrounding land. It has established a Green Port Program to minimize its environmental footprint, and established an environmental fund, which has helped fund more than 60 projects around port tidelands.

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