The Coast Guard helped more than 500 sea turtle hatchlings find their way to sea Thursday afternoon off the coast of Boca Raton.
The hatchlings came from turtle nests located in beaches throughout South Florida, mainly in southern Palm Beach and northern Broward counties, said scientist Melanie Stadler, who led the release.
Stadler, who works with the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, said the turtles hatched between two days and two weeks ago.
There were 505 turtles, including 311 loggerheads and 194 green sea turtles.
They were released off-shore into the Florida Gulf Stream from a Coast Guard vessel.
"These are what we call swimmers," Stadler said. "These turtles have already lost instinct to go to shore."
The Coast Guard gave the sea turtles a ride about six nautical miles from shore.
"Our goal is to release them a little bit spread out so they don't get bunched up and have a higher chance of survival," Coast Guard Petty Officer Humberto Diaz said.
From there, they will hopefully ride along with the current and land in patches of Sargassum seaweed where they can live and eat.
"These turtles were unable to come out of the nest and crawl to the ocean themselves so we are giving them a second chance at life and bringing them out to the seaweed where they would have gone in the first place when they came out of the nest," said David Anderson, Stadler's colleague at Gumbo Limbo.
In 7 to 12 years they will return closer to shore when they are big enough to avoid being eaten by predators.
It will take about 20 years for the turtles to reach maturity. They have a life span of about 80 years.