Sea turtle hospital to open on First Coast

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – The First Coast is close to getting its own sea turtle hospital.

It's going in on the St. Johns County/ Flagler County line at the UF Whitney Marine Laboratory.

Cat Eastman is a biologist and the Sea Turtle Program Coordinator at the Whitney Lab, but she's also helping to refurbish rooms there. Tuesday she was literally scrapping old tile off the floor.

The hospital will have several new round tanks and a surgery room. The facility will help all kinds of sea turtles, but will focus on treating green turtles which with Fibropapillomatosis. The disease causes tumors to form on the turtles.

"We don't exactly know why," Eastman noted.

She said the closest hospital that can care for turtles with this disease is 200 miles away, and so some of the turtles stranded on the First Coast have died during transport.

She also said northeast Florida is seeing more turtles with this kind of disease.

"We are seeing more green turtles in our estuary. So is the disease coming with more green turtles? We have so many questions," Eastman said.

No word when the facility will open. It all depends on permits from the state.

The University of Florida and a private donation is helping fund the hospital, but Eastman said it still needs many more donations.

A groundbreaking ceremony will be held Sept. 6 at 10:30 a.m. at the Whitney Lab.


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