Sea Sickness

A Florida hospital is seeing a surge of sea turtles with debilitating tumors.

Green sea turtles have been on the endangered species list since 1978, but they’ve been making such a comeback in Florida that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is now considering an upgrade from “endangered” to “threatened.” That’s great news, but the species isn’t out of hot water yet. At the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida, veterinarians are seeing surging numbers of these reptiles with fibropapillomatosis, a debilitating diseased caused by a herpes virus.

Last year, the hospital admitted 172 sea turtles, nearly double the number it cared for in 2014. Of those, 119 had FP. The disease causes tumors that can interfere with the turtle’s ability to swim, feed, see, and breathe. Many of the animals require multiple surgeries to remove all the growths, and are only deemed healthy enough to be safely re-released after spending a year in the hospital’s pools. While there are still many unknowns, experts say the disease could be linked to agricultural runoff, pollution, and climate change.  


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