Thousands of public comments were generated through the Sea Turtle Restoration Project Action Center online tools and through direct member communications supporting sea turtles in the BP oil spill Natural Resources Damages Assessment and Program Environmental Impact Statement. In addition, a detailed comment letter was submitted, which is summarized below. Click here to download a pdf of the entire comment letter.
Of critical importance is the need to take immediate action to reduce or eliminate deadly threats to endangered sea turtles in their habitats for restoration projects to be effective. Specific actions needed to ensure restoration success in the Gulf of Mexico include; protected marine areas must be established eliminating commercial fishing and phasing out oil and gas development; an overhaul offshore oil operations to avoid sea turtle breeding, foraging and migration habitat for any new or renewed oil and gas drilling platforms, pipelines, or ports; and significant reductions to commercial trawl and longline fishing which kills thousands of sea turtles each year.
Immediate action is needed for the protection and restoration of sea turtle habitat contaminated by the BP oil spill and damaged by the ongoing impacts of bottom trawl fisheries. While new projects may require permits and a thorough EIS, immediate action can be taken through the NRDA process to expand and secure funding for existing projects that benefit sea turtles and their habitat. We recommend the following:
1) Clean all nesting beaches to be oil-free to a depth of 30 inches to protect developing sea turtle nests from oil toxicity.
2) Construct protective corrals for sea turtle nests in areas of clean sands to increase nesting and hatchling success while supporting public educational and scientific projects, specifically near Galveston, Texas, for Kempís ridley sea turtles.
3) Improve wetland health and barrier island ecosystem health where juvenile sea turtles regularly forage on healthy crabs, oysters, and other creatures.
4) Establish Safe Swimways in each Gulf state to allow sanctuary for sea turtles from the deadly impacts of commercial fishing and trawling, offshore oil operations, and sand dredging.
5) Secure funding for and increase sea turtle beach monitoring and predator patrols to optimize nesting success of sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico.
6) Secure funding for and increase beachfront lighting requirements to reduce light pollution on sea turtle nesting beaches.
7) Secure funding for and increase law enforcement, both at sea and on land, to enforce sea turtle protection laws and provisions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
8) Secure funding for, increase the size of, and improve the Gulf of Mexico Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network (STSSN).
9) Secure funding for, improve, and increase facilities to rescue and rehabilitate injured and sick sea turtles in all Gulf States.
The PEIS and NRDA process must share with the public its findings on sea turtle mortalities, ecosystem health, and the health of coastal communities so public policy efforts can shape necessary reform.
The PEIS and NRDA process must estimate all sea turtles killed or harmed during the BP oil spill in 2010, during ongoing cleanup in 2011, and due to restoration activities in the years to come.
New and existing offshore oil operations must be re-evaluated and modified in light of the BP oil spill and new science on sea turtle populations, their status and recovery to eliminate, prevent and avoid harm or jeopardizing their existence as required under the Endangered Species Act. If ongoing offshore oil operations are interfering with NRDA projects or restoration work, they should be ceased.
Oil and gas corporations must adopt rigorous monitoring and reporting schemes and fund new sea turtle research to better document the impacts of the full scope of oil and gas development, operations, oil spills and decommissioning of offshore oil facilities on sea turtles and marine life.
We will continue to watchdog the BP oil spill cleanup, the chronic impacts from the oil poisoning, and the PEIS and NRDA processes until BP and the responsible parties pay and restore the health of the Gulf of Mexico for sea turtles, marine biodiversity, and all coastal communities.