Mote Marine Laboratory, Associated Press
This photo provided by Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla, shows medical coordinator Lynne Byrd, left, and Dr. Tony Tucker, manager of Mote's Sea Turtle Conservation and Research, before releasing a kemp ridley sea turtle into the Gulf of Mexico, Tuesday Dec. 27, 2011, on Lido Key, Fla. The turtle named "Johnny Vasco de Gama" is on the final leg of a 4,600-mile, three-year journey. Johnny was found stranded in the Netherlands in 2008. He was then flown to Portugal, where he spent years in rehab. Then he flew to Florida, where he was fitted with a tracking transmitter.

SARASOTA, Fla. — Marine experts have released an endangered turtle into the Gulf of Mexico three years after the creature became stranded in Europe.

About 300 people watched Tuesday as the Kemp's ridley sea turtle swam into the surf near Sarasota.

The turtle was discovered in 2008 on a beach in The Netherlands. It spent nearly three years in rehabilitation in Portugal.

In November, the turtle was flown to the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota. There, it has been outfitted with a satellite tracking system to monitor its whereabouts.

It's unusual for these turtles to leave the Gulf of Mexico. Experts say the turtle released on Tuesday likely got caught in the Gulf Stream and was carried to The Netherlands. It would have died from the cold water had it not been rescued.