The 57-pound turtle was taken into the aquarium's rehabilitation facility March 2 after being found floating face-down in Tarpon Springs.
A buoyancy disorder had limited his ability to dive and remain submerged and affected his ability to find food, aquarium officials said. He also had shell abnormalities and broken ribs that suggested he had experienced some major trauma.
“When they have infection, trauma or stress, the turtles usually like to sit at the surface where they feel a bit safer and more comfortable, and that was the situation with Bubba,” said Adrienne Cardwell, the aquarium's manager of sea turtles. “Due to his types of injuries, I have to say he made a very fast recovery.”
The aquarium received permission from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to take the sea turtle to its facilities in Clearwater to assess his nutritional needs and to administer antibiotics. The turtle is a “sub-adult” about 15 to 20 years old. Sea turtles can live to be about 70, Cardwell said.
The aquarium staff determined he was healthy enough to be released once he became a good diver and was spending about 85 percent of his time on the bottom of the pool.
Bubba Gump's release is the aquarium's seventh green sea turtle release this year. A loggerhead sea turtle was released in January. The aquarium has seen an increase in the number of injured sea turtles filtering through its facilities this year, Cardwell said.
“It may be increased awareness. Now people know who to call and who to contact when they see an animal in distress, but I also think it's because more people are sharing the ocean environment with these animals,” she said.