South Padre Island, TX, Residents Rescue Sea Turtles

Residents of South Padre Island are cooperating to save thousands of sea turtles stunned by the freezing weather.

Video Transcript

- Break the net. The mesh is going to come off. There you go.

- Henry Rodriguez of South Padre Island says he was one of the first to realize the sea turtles along the coast were going to need help.

HENRY RODRIGUEZ: I knew that I had to do something.

- Rodriguez, an owner of a boat charter business, which specializes in dolphin tours and fishing trips, says he and a team of volunteers have managed to rescue a few hundred turtles from the freezing water that has struck Texas in recent days. Some as big as 200 pounds.

HENRY RODRIGUEZ: If this ecosystem is putting food on my table, and is supporting my family, my very first thought was, why not give back to my ecosystem.

- Racing against the clock, The South Padre Island community is using boats, nets, and cars along the shoreline to save sea turtles stunned by the freezing weather, an event that could result in their drowning.

WENDY KNIGHT: They are literally frozen, stunned-- catatonic is a similar human condition. And as a result of that, they float to the top of the water, and even though they know they need to raise their breath to breathe, they can't. Their body doesn't respond and they drown on the top of the water.

- Rescuers at Sea Turtle Inc. Say more than 4,000 sea turtles have been rescued since the harsh weather began, a record breaking number that has resulted in an overflow facility being created at the city's convention center amid power outages.

WENDY KNIGHT: This is not a new phenomenon. What became urgently different is the volume. And I think what's really important, and what says more about our community than that, is to remember that when hundreds and thousands of people were going out and collecting turtles and bringing them to us those same people had gone days without electricity.

- Look how pretty that is. Beautiful.

- With his new boat now docked due to engine problems brought on by the cold weather, Rodriguez says he's hopeful the weather will warm up soon so that some of the turtles can be released safely back into the wild.

HENRY RODRIGUEZ: We are expecting another freeze tomorrow night. Hopefully after that, it'll come back up.

WENDY KNIGHT: I'm willing that we're going to have a very high success rate of ones that we get to release back into the ocean. Then there's going to be a patient section. So they will stay here with us for an extended period of time. Here you go guys.

HENRY RODRIGUEZ: If you can save one turtle-- anybody out there-- one turtle, that'll make a big difference.

- For Newsie I'm Mag Hilling.