Kimberley protesters block road to controversial gas hub site
Posted by Teri Shore on June 8th, 2011
Photo: An environmental protestor waves an Aboriginal flag atop a camel next to a grader that has been blockaded from reaching James Price Point. (ABC Local: Ben Collins)
Protesters have blockaded the road to a controversial gas hub site in Western Australia's Kimberley.
About 25 people gathered on a dirt track north of Broome to stop Woodside contractors from accessing the site at James Price Point.
They set up banners early this morning and one protester called Shaun chained himself to a bulldozer.
He agreed to free himself in exchange for seeing a document giving Woodside permission to clear the land.
Another man has since chained himself to the bulldozer and protester Dave Mann says they are holding their ground.
"We don't want to see them do their business so we're here to make it difficult for them," he said.
Inspector Geoff Stewart says while the police respect the protesters' right to have their say, it is illegal to block traffic.
"Certainly people can't impede the vehicles, even by standing or by vehicles, and we're just negotiating with them to move," he said.
A convoy, including the bulldozer, several cars and a truck, was prevented from accessing the site.
Organiser Will Thomas says even though the police will try to move them on, the protesters will not let the Woodside convoy through today.
The blockades come as the Australian Heritage Council officially recommends 20 million hectares of the West Kimberley be declared a national heritage site.
In its final report to the Government, the Australian Heritage Council has expanded the recommended boundary to include the gas hub site.
The Wilderness Society's Peter Robertson says the new report contradicts the State Government's claims that the area is not significant.
"The Government's proposal pretty much dismissed the significance of the dinosaur footprints, especially in the James Price Point area," he said.
"This report and these recommendations contradict that dismissive appraisal and it will definitely force the federal minister to focus his mind much more clearly on the significance of that coastal environment."
Mr Robertson says the inclusion of the site will create problems for supporters of the development.
"It will certainly make it more difficult for the federal government to approve it and it will also make it more difficult for the joint venture partners like Woodside to argue what they are doing is environmentally responsible," he said.
In a statement, Woodside said the site was preferred over others because the WA Environmental Protection Authority recommended that heritage and environment issues at James Price Point could be managed.
It also said that any sites of heritage value at the precinct will be managed in accordance with the conditions of the environmental and heritage approvals the project requires to proceed.
Tags: environment, conservation, wa, broome-6725
First posted Tue Jun 7, 2011 12:30pm AEST
Follow Satellite Tracked Sea Turtles from Cocos Island National Park
Posted by Todd Steiner, Executive Director on April 24th, 2011
Almost six weeks after releasing an adult male Pacific green turtle, captured at Cocos Island National Park, Costa Rica, the turtle, equipped with a satellite transmitter, has traveled 1,062 miles NE (1,709 km) and is currently offshore of El Salvador.
His name is Back Country, and you can watch Back Country’s daily tracks on our website.
The second adult male we have satellite tagged at Cocos, “Yuri,” also headed east toward the Central American coast, then south, traveling all the way to the coast of Panama before we lost transmission. See his old tracks at the C-MAR Project page.
All of the other tagged turtles, most of them sub-adults, are seen in and around Cocos, including Adrienne who was also tagged last month and is still transmitting! She preferred to stay around Cocos, indicating the importance of Cocos Island National Park as a foraging area for young turtles where they can grow to maturity before migrating to their nesting grounds. We don’t yet know where that is—the Central American coast or the Galapagos Islands, or ???. Stay tuned.
You can see the tracks of all the turtles we have satellite tagged at the C-MAR Project page.
To learn more about our work at Cocos Island, click here.
Kemp's Ridley Discarded in Houston!
Posted by Carole Allen, Gulf Office Director on April 23rd, 2011
Dr. Joe Flanagan, senior veterinarian at the Houston Zoo, had a call Tuesday from the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at Houston SPCA. Someone had brought in a small Kemp's ridley sea turtle that had been found crossing a street in Northeast Houston. It had a hook in its mouth and x-rays showed it had pneumonia. Dr. Flanagan removed the hook, treated the turtle's pneumonia and took it to the National Marine Fisheries Service sea turtle facility in Galveston. One lucky turtle! The US Fish and Wildlife Service has been notified of this illegal capture of an endangered sea turtle.
The Kemp's ridley is endangered and should never be taken home as a souvenir from a fishing trip.
One Year After BP -- From Greenwashing to Bluewashing
Posted by Teri Shore on April 20th, 2011
Ocean conservationist David Helvarg posted this timely and insightful piece on the Huffington Post today.
The National Ocean Policy Coalition has one aim -- to undermine America's National Ocean Policy. Why am I not surprised?
by David Helvarg
In 1994 I wrote a book called, The War Against the Greens, about how industries created anti-environmental front groups and nurtured a 'Wise Use' movement that, along with traditional rallies and protests used threats, intimidation and violence to achieve its ends. These ends were mostly to promote the agenda of their extractive industry backers and protect federal subsidies for mining, logging and cattle companies operating on public lands. With support from Western politicians like Congressman Dick Cheney of Wyoming and Senator Larry Craig of Idaho they managed, among other things, to keep the Clinton administration from following through on its early pledge to reform public lands management.
Another corporate strategy was known as greenwashing, giving an environmental spin to environmentally destructive practices, taking credit for restoration work that the industry was forced to do as a result of lawsuits and regulations they'd fought against or creating green sounding front groups.
Some industry folks I talked to were quite proud of the names they'd come up with like the Alliance for Environment and Resources (a pro-logging group run out of a Forestry Association office), the Greening Earth Society (a coal and utility backed group claiming increased carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is good for plant growth and so could solve the problem of world hunger) and the National Wetlands Coalition, put together by contractors and developers opposed to Clean Water Act provisions that protect wetlands.
Which brings us to today's National Ocean Policy Coalition. In the wake of last summer's BP blowout disaster in the Gulf, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the nation's first National Ocean Policy to try and coordinate competing uses of our public seas in ways that will assure their continued health. The oil industry, which has generated a trillion dollars in offshore revenues since 1946, was not pleased. They formed the National Ocean Policy Coalition with the aim of promoting, "a sound, balanced ocean policy that... enhances commercial and recreational activities, such as oil and gas development," in other words, business as usual.
NOPC's membership includes the American Petroleum Institute, Chevron, U.S. Oil & Gas Association, National Ocean Industries Association (offshore oil & gas) and Consumer Energy Alliance, an outfit formed by a D.C. lobbyist to fight against climate regulation. Among a handful of non-oil members is a sport fishing industry trade association that is leading the fight against the establishment of wilderness parks in the sea (known as Marine Protected Areas) where neither fishing nor drilling are allowed.
Just as the mining and timber industries in the West looked to use cowboy ranchers to front their Wise Use agenda in the 1990s, the oil industry is hoping to mobilize recreational fishermen as the visible face of opposition to public planning on our public seas. Despite pushback from some outdoor writers and conservation-oriented sportfishing groups they've had some success. Towards the end of the public hearings process that led to the new ocean policy an article appeared in ESPN Outdoors.com claiming the President was about to ban recreational fishing in large parts of the ocean. The story quickly went viral and was touted by Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and others on the right. Signs started showing up at Tea Party rallies reading, "Obama, get your hands off my fishing pole." In its final report the President's Ocean Policy Taskforce included language specifically reassuring recreational fishermen and women that they were an important element of the ocean stakeholder community and no one was out to take their poles away.
A little background might help: In 2003 and 2004 two blue ribbon ocean panels (a federal one appointed by President Bush, another led by now-CIA chief Leon Panetta) put out reports both stating that the ecological decline of U.S. waters posed a threat to our economy, security and environment and recommending better coordination and oversight of America's blue frontier. U.S. federal waters are presently run by 24 different agencies operating under 140 laws with little or no coordination among them. The result has been decades of overfishing, pollution, sprawl, oil spills and beach closures.
In 2009 President Obama established an Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force to review the recommendations of the two commissions and examine new and changed realities. There followed a long process of public hearings by the taskforce attended by thousands of citizen stakeholders who were in the great majority supportive of their effort. The ocean policy's operating principle, now incorporated into the President's executive order, is called ecosystem-based coastal and marine spatial planning (CMSP).
The CMSP idea is to take a more unified and mapped out approach to ocean management. Ultimately, if done correctly, it could involve cleaning up our coastal watersheds, greening our ports and designating offshore waters not only for shipping but also energy, fishing, national defense, wildlife and wilderness in a dynamic and regionally responsive manner (Massachusetts, Rhode Island and California have taken the lead).
For the oil industry, having to operate on a level playing field is not an attractive option however. One of their key allies on Capitol Hill, House Natural Resources Committee Chair "Doc" Hastings (R. WA) doesn't even pretend to want to work with the new ocean policy, calling the president's approach "irrational zoning" and pushing bills through the House to speed up offshore oil and gas permitting in federal waters. Not surprisingly the oil & gas industry was his largest campaign contributor last year.
Our public seas deserve better. They deserve well-coordinated management from all levels of government: federal, state, local and tribal to try and resolve user conflicts rather than simply respond to the demands of a single powerful industry lobby. Hopefully, despite big oil's "bluewashing," efforts citizens who work on, live by or enjoy the ocean will begin to engage more actively in determining its future and work for good ocean policies and practices that can help assure healthy waters and coastal communities from Maine to Hawaii and from sea to shining sea.
Link to Huffington Post.
“TECHNO-FIXES ALONE WON’T SOLVE BYCATCH ISSUES ON AN OVERFISHED PLANET: Finding ‘Common Ground’ Requires Everyone Accepting Their Role in the Problem
Posted by Todd Steiner, Executive Director on April 17th, 2011
I was invited to participate on a panel called “Finding Common Ground in Fisheries Management” at the International Sea Turtle Symposium this week, and I entitled my opening statement,
“TECHNO-FIXES ALONE WON’T SOLVE BYCATCH ISSUES ON AN OVERFISHED PLANET: Finding ‘Common Ground’ Requires Everyone Accepting Their Role in the Problem
Here is part of what I had to say…
For fisheries, sea turtles are the “canary in the coal mine” that we ignore at our own peril. In order to find common ground (between fishers and the environmental community) all of us must recognize and accept our individual and collective role in the problem. In my experience, the fishing industry often fails to accept, and the general public is generally unaware of the following well-established facts:
A. Overfishing by humans is one of the fundamental causes of the decline of marine species;
B. Global fish stocks are in major decline and current levels of global fisheries are not sustainable.
C. There are “too many vessels chasing too few fish.” The lost economic benefit to fishers (and society) caused by overfishing (calculated for yr. 2004 by the World Bank) was estimated at ~$50 billion.
Solutions to bycatch reduction must seek to secure healthy marine ecosystems. In addition to using all the best available bycatch reduction “devices,” the solutions must include:
(1) significant reduction of global fishing effort;
(2) no-fishing marine preserves;
(3) time-area closures;
(4) banning the use of the most destructive fishing technology; and
(5) adequate enforcement.
You can read my entire abstract at: http://www.seaturtles.org/downloads/Steiner%20ISTS%20Panel%20abstractV-Fin2.pdf
Offshore Oil Impacts Deadlier than We Know to Sea Turtles
Posted by on April 12th, 2011
The one-year anniversary of the BP oil spill is drawing close and we are still learning the deadly impacts to sea turtles from the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history. Today, at the International Sea Turtle Society's annual meeting I presented on my experiences being kept "out of the box" while on a mission to save sea turtles and I learned some startling new facts about the oil impacts just released at the conference.
At least two critically endangered leatherback sea turtles were spotted in the oil slicks! During our negotiations with the U.S. Coast Guard following our successful legal action June 30, 2010 I specifically advised the rescue unit that they must have the ability to rescue an adult leatherback weighing 800 pounds or more. The technology exists, BP must pay to use it for the benefit of the leatherback.
Work is progressing towards improving rescue and response for sea turtles in the next oil spill. Our work is joined by work underway at the Oiled Wildlife Care Network who is taking lessons learned from the BP spill and updating their protocols for rehabilitation care.
The 2011 nesting season for Kemp's ridley sea turtles in the Gulf has begun, and at this same time a wave of dead Kemp's are washing ashore on Gulf beaches, especially in Mississippi. Already 87 dead sea turtle have been found, and the numbers increase almost every day. Click here for an update on the recent wave of dead sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico. At least 50 dead sea turtles have washed ashore in April on Mississippi beaches alone!
This year and many more to come will tell the true tale of the deadly impacts from the BP oil spill to our endangered sea turtle populations. Knowing the chronic, long-term effects from oil exposure can cause cancer before death, it could be a long and painful road for the Gulf sea turtles who still forage in oily sands left by BP.
Sea Turtle Nesting Time in Texas!
Posted by Carole Allen, Gulf Office Director, Sea Turtle Restoration Project on April 7th, 2011
The Kemp's ridley nesting season has begun all along the Texas coast. The first ridley nest in Mexico was found on March 30 and nestings usually begin in Texas two to three weeks later. The patrol teams along the Upper Texas Coast have started looking for telltale tracks indicating a sea turtle has left the water looking for a suitable place to lay eggs.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has sent a detailed news release on what to do if a sea turtle is seen on the beach. The public is encouraged to immediately call 1-866-TURTLE-5. This toll-free number sponsored by the Sea Turtle Restoration Project is answered by federal and state agencies that will provide information or try to reach the site.
"The steady increase in the turtles' nesting success is in large part due to the ongoing efforts by members of the public to protect them," said Benjamin N. Tuggle, Ph.D., the Service's Southwest Regional Director. "This is the kind of cooperative effort that will eventually lead to success in saving these sea turtles as well as other imperiled species."
In addition, the public is asked to drive slowly and look out for sea turtles as they sometimes blend with the sand. If a camera is handy, photos are always welcome should the turtle finish the nest and returns to the water before a federal or state official arrives.
This year will be different for all those who patrol the beaches or follow the news about the Kemp's ridleys. Many of those that laid eggs on the Texas coast last spring migrated to the east only to find water covered with oil, beaches ruined by sludge and perhaps contaminated food such as shrimp and crabs. Between April 20 and July 15, millions of gallons of oil poured from the BP well followed by over flights dropping dispersants that might also be deadly.
What will be the effect on Kemp's ridley sea turtles that nested in Texas? One such turtle is named Kathy and was discovered on May 19 last year at Surfside Beach, west of Galveston. She left 102 eggs which were excavated by biologists from Texas A&M University at Galveston and moved to the Padre Island National Seashore for incubation. The movement of the eggs is necessary because there is no incubation facility or corral in Galveston.
Kathy was outfitted with a satellite transmitter as part of a study assessing the impact of Hurricane Ike on sea turtle nesting activity on the upper Texas coast. She was released at Stewart Beach on Galveston Island on the same day. Kathy has been named in honor of Katherine McGovern, President of the John P. McGovern Foundation, who donated funds enabling the 2010 nesting patrols.
But, will we see Kathy again? Maybe so. On April 4, her satellite transmitter indicated she was near southeast Louisiana, hopefully on her way back to Surfside to leave another nest of eggs.
Another 2010 Kemp's ridley nester named Karen was tracked to waters west of Florida but her transmitter is no longer sending a signal. She had migrated along the Gulf Coast when the BP well was spewing our millions of gallons of oil, maybe into her path. We hope the lack of a signal from Karen's transmitter is because it simply quit working but we won't know unless she returns to the Texas coast. She was named for the late Karen Stockton who educated thousands in the Houston area through her songs about sea turtles and nature. It's sea turtle nesting time again, but this year, let's watch for Kathy and hope for Karen to return to the Upper Texas Coast.
Captive B.C. green turtles must be spared
Posted by on March 8th, 2011
|Green sea turtle, Doug Perrine photo/SeaPics.com|
Turtle Island Restoration Network has joined the international call to spare the captive-bred green sea turtles that are being held at the University of British Columbia for research purposes. While these seven sea turtles are not part of the wild population and will not make a difference to the survival of the species, the university should do all it can to ensure that they live out their lives in the best way possible.
Our wish is that people around the world would be as outraged about the plan to kill these poor sea turtles as for the tens of thousands of wild sea turtles killed in the U.S. every year in fisheries for shrimp, swordfish and tuna! By not eating this fish and telling others about the harm, people can make a real difference in protecting sea turtles from extinction!
We sent a letter today to the president of the university. Download the letter here or read the text below.
March 8, 2011
Office of the President
The University of British Columbia
6328 Memorial Road
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2 Canada
Dear UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Stephen J. Toope:
Turtle Island Restoration Network is writing to urge you to immediately cease invasive experimentation on the seven remaining endangered green sea turtles housed at the University of British Columbia and to allow for a team of independent veterinarians to assess the health of the turtles to determine if the animals can be placed in a sanctuary or other protective facility. If an assessment shows the animals can be moved to such a facility where they can live out their remaining days, we request UBC move forward with the rehousing of the turtles as quickly as possible.
Turtle Island Restoration Network is a nonprofit organization based in California that empowers individuals and communities throughout the world to protect marine wildlife.
As you may be aware, all seven species of sea turtles are at high risk of extinction. Listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, sea turtles face a host of threats. Those threats include: pollution, especially from oil spills, beach front development, ingestion of marine debris, such as plastic bags, the illegal turtle shell trade, incidental capture in fishing nets, and turtle egg and meat consumption. In addition, artificial lighting along beaches often discourages female turtles from nesting and disorients hatchlings who may mistakenly wander inland, exposing them to predation.
At a time when the international community is undertaking efforts to protect and restore sea turtle populations, it makes little sense for an educational institution of UBC’s esteem to kill members of an imperiled species. By permitting a team of independent veterinarians to evaluate the condition of the seven turtles and, if appropriate, placing the animals in a sanctuary, UBC would be showing the world it is committed to conserving one of the planet’s most vulnerable species.
To our understanding, the University of British Columbia conducts extensive research on a variety of animals. Much of this research is funded by the public through taxpayer dollars, student fees, alumni gifts, and private donations. UBC promotes critical thinking, debate, transparency, and freedom of speech; however, the university has been less than forthcoming about its research on animals.
The public has the right to know about such research being conducted. Information about UBC's animal research and decisions by its Animal Care Committee should be made widely available. Information, data, and reports about animal research in the United States are posted at website databases through the National Institutes of Health and the US Department of Agriculture. With that in mind, I urge UBC to post the following information online:
Assessment reports of UBC by the Canadian Council on Animal Care from 2000-2009, including records of non-compliance and violations issued by the CCAC to UBC, as well as UBC's responses to those assessment reports
Veterinary care and necropsy reports on animals at UBC for 2000-2009
Data on the number of animals used annually in research, teaching, and testing at UBC for 2000-2009. Data should include numbers of animals used by species, category of invasiveness, and purpose of use.
Copies of animal use protocols by UBC animal researchers and instructors for 2000-2009
Photos, videos, and other recordings of experiments conducted on animals by UBC researchers and instructors for 2000-2009
Finally, we urge UBC to pursue alternatives to research on animals as other universities have done.
I look forward to your response. Thank you.
Teri Shore, Program Director
Delays plague Kemp's ridley sea turtle recovery
Posted by Chris Pincetich, Campaigner and Marine Biologist on February 17th, 2011
One year ago today a petition was filed seeking a long-overdue critical habitat designation for the endangered Kemp' ridley sea turtle in the Gulf of Mexico. These sea turtles were included in the Endangered Species Act in 1970, and now in 2011, over 40 years later, the habitat vital to their survival has yet to be given protections. Both the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service are to blame, as they manage the Kemp ridley's U.S. ocean and beach habitats, respectively. Years of data show Louisiana barrier islands are a critical feeding area and Texas nesting beaches are now part of the healthy Kemp's ridley population.
Ironically, the petition is challenging the federal delays. Why the delays on habitat protections, and the delay in the lawsuit over the delay? I wish I knew. It seems the smallest sea turtle species on the planet is the smallest of priorities for the public agencies that could take action to protect them.
I applaud the efforts of the WildEarth Guardians, who filed the petition last year in February and then brought the issue back to court in August with a plea to end the endless delays and take action in the wake of the horrific BP oil spill. The Sea Turtle Restoration Project and its allies work every day to overcome these and many other delays in our fight to keep sea turtles from being pushed to extinction by offshore oil operations, commercial fishing, and continued habitat destruction.
Tuna the Wonderfish is Mercury Laden
Posted by Teri Shore , Program Director on January 25th, 2011
The three big tuna companies - Bumble Bee, Starkist and Chicken of the Sea - have joined forces to peddle mercury laden tuna to mothers and children who are the most vulnerable to mercury exposure. Tuna the Wonderfish should really be Tuna the Toxic Fish. All tuna contains mercury; and even "light skipjack" tuna is mercury contaminated. The risk to a woman or child's health from mercury is directly related to how much tuna they eat and their weight. The tuna industry is selling them on eating lots and lots!
The tuna fantasy campaign features a woman clearly of child-bearing age surrounded by attractive, athletic young men in a dream kitchen reminiscent of the 1950s when women were supposedly content to stay home and please their men with food and sex. Another fantasy. Who wrote these ads anyway? Charlie the Tuna?
The tuna fantasy website is offering misleading and potentially harmful advice when it FAILS TO MENTION MERCURY AT ALL OR THE FDA ADVISORY WHICH TELLS WOMEN AND CHILDREN TO LIMIT CONSUMPTION OF MERCURY LADEN FISH INCLUDING ALBACORE TUNA.
The tuna fantasy campaign blatantly urges women to eat at least two servings of fish each week and recommends pregnant and breastfeeding women eat two to three meals each week, including high-mercury albacore tuna. Nowhere is mercury mentioned. So what happens if they follow this advice and they or their child becomes ill? Will Tuna the Wonderfish come to the rescue?
The tuna fantasy conflicts with ample and recent scientific tuna testing and advice from numerous sources that women and children SHOULD SEVERELY LIMIT OR NOT EAT CANNED TUNA. (Consumers Union, Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, Good Housekeeping).
It seems that the tuna companies are so desperate to sell fish that they will put at risk both women and children to make profits. Gee that sounds familiar . . tobacco . . .alcohol . . . lead . . .
At best this ad campaign is irresponsible or a clear case of false and misleading advertising. At worst it could be making women and children sick. In case, the ad campaign is outrageous and wrong and should be removed.
Read more about mercury in tuna at www.gotmercury.org.
Oprah - Help Save the Kimberley!
Posted by Teri Shore , Program Director on January 19th, 2011
Oprah's Australian shows are now airing and everyone is going ga-ga for the wonders of Down Under! But not all is well in Oz! We need Oprah and her fans to help Save the Kimberley.
Oprah never made it to the red rock country in the remote Northwest, but the town of Broome and the huge expanse of this wild and sacred land is a major destination for adventurers from around the world. Not to mention it is one of the world's last untouched havens for sea turtles, whales and rare corals and undiscovered marine life.
Please go on Oprah's Facebook page and post a short comment to Save the Kimberley, even if it gets taken down. Then go to her website and submit a comment through a form asking her to help Save the Kimberley and link to our action alert.
Hawaiian Locals Active Protecting their Honu
Posted by Chris Pincetich, Campaigner and Marine Biologist on January 3rd, 2011
On the Hawaiian Islands the green sea turtles that frequent local beaches and reefs are known affectionately as honu. The honu in Hawaii have a rich history, experienced dramatic declines in recent decades, and have been recovering slowly thanks to many local efforts to protect them and their beach habitats. The Sea Turtle Restoration Project has been fighting for many years to ensure the main threat to their survival, deadly industrial fisheries, increase sea turtle protections and decrease their allowable killings of these endangered species. Whether they are cavorting among coral reefs or sunning on the beach, the honu have many caring individuals looking out for them.
On the north shore of Oahu, the honu regularly come ashore at Laniakea Beach to sun themselves after filling their bellies with the lush green algae covering the rocky reefs. When they arrive on the beach, they are greeted by throngs of curious tourists and a group of dedicated local volunteers that protect the turtles from harassment.
It is quite a site to watch! With each lunge forward, cheers and screams emit from the dozens of tourists from across the globe that are drawn to this spot in the hopes of seeing sea turtles. The Japanese are especially vocal! The volunteer honu protectors can quickly identify the individual sea turtles by markings on their shells, and adjust their protective barriers and informational signs as each one arrives, creating a safe and educational zone for all. Their love for the honu is apparent with each caring adjustment and in each thoughtful conversation they have with onlookers.
Since SCUBA diving is one of my passions, I always try to spend as much time underwater on each trip to Hawaii, and a regular partner for these adventures are the great folks at Deep Ecology in Haleiwa on the north shore of Oahu. This trip, we headed to Turtle Canyon! Known as a regular hangout and cleaning station for several honu, Turtle Canyon delivered a fantastic experience once again. Reaching the bottom at this relatively shallow dive spot took only 5 minutes, and finding a peaceful honu resting under a coral outcropping took another 1 minute. I kept my distance and snapped a few photos before the honu woke up and swam up for air.
My dive buddy and several others followed the expert Deep Ecology dive master to the end of the reef to a regular sea turtle cleaning station. On our way there, we were passed by another honu, swimming gracefully by us. The sea turtle settled in the sand and we all watched from a distance as it covered itself in a light coat of sand. The camera came out again, and those memories will last a lifetime.
Longline fishing in and around Hawaii has deadly consequences to the sea turtles that live and migrate through the central Pacific. The Sea Turtle Restoration Project has taken legal action on several fronts to close the deadly longline fisheries due to their unacceptable deadly bycatch of sea turtles and marine mammals. We will continue to fight these battles with your support to ensure the honu are protected and all Pacific sea turtles are safeguarded from extinction.
photos: Chris Pincetich, Sea Turtle Restoration Project
Gulf of Mexico Seafood Safety Estimates by FDA Flawed
Posted by Chris Pincetich, Campaigner and Marine Biologist on December 19th, 2010
The Sea Turtle Restoration Project of the Turtle Island Restoration Network is signed-on to a coalition with other concerned non-profit organizations in calling on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to improve its flawed seafood safety calculations which may be putting Gulf of Mexico residents consuming their average amount of seafood at risk. Click here to download the coalition letter to the FDA.
Contamination of Gulf seafood has been a concern in the wake of the horrific BP oil spill this summer in the Gulf of Mexico. Federal agencies moved rapidly to re-open fishing grounds weeks after the areas were dotted with oil slicks. Shrimp trawlers, which have killed over 100 sea turtles during the summer disaster, were found guilty of trawling in areas closed during the oil spill. An excellent summary of concerns was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Download and read the commentary published in the Journal of the American Medical Association "Health Effects of the Gulf Oil Spill."
Recently, more evidence on the flawed risk assessment calculations performed by the FDA has made news headlines, see below for the full story.
Groups skeptical of federal seafood-safety testing
12/17/2010, Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter
Environmental groups are stressing the need for more independent data on the safety of Gulf Coast seafood after a study released last week found flaws in the federal methods for determining the region's seafood consumption levels.
Several Gulf groups are conducting their own testing of seafood from regions hit by the oil spill, saying that they do not trust the data federal agencies have used in declaring areas safe for fishing.
Groups also say the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration moved too hastily to open up fishing areas, pointing to the recent reclosing of 4,213 square miles of an 8,403-square-mile royal red shrimp fishing area after a fisherman caught tarballs in his shrimp trawler.
"The rush to say that seafood is safe is premature and hurts the brand more than if we all just waited a little bit and gave the science the time to tell us what's really happening out there," said Casey DeMoss Roberts, assistant director of science and water policy at the Gulf Restoration Network.
In the study released last week, the Natural Resources Defense Council found that FDA underestimated the amount of seafood that the typical Gulf Coast resident consumes. That information was used in calculations for safe levels of contamination of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in seafood, chemicals that remain from the BP PLC oil spill.
FDA, according to the study, based its estimates of consumption on national data and used the average American male adult weighing 175 pounds as its basis for its calculations. It assumed that a Gulf resident eats seafood about twice a week and shrimp once a week. One serving of shrimp, according to the FDA, consists of about four jumbo shrimp.
The Natural Resources Defense Council surveyed 547 Gulf Coast residents on their seafood eating habits and found that their consumption rates were from 3.6 to 12.1 times higher than FDA estimates. The survey also found that Vietnamese-Americans had especially high seafood consumption rates in fish, shrimp, oyster and crab.
"Four shrimp a week is not even an appetizer for some folks around here," said Marylee Orr, executive director of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network.
Roberts said the NRDC's results were not surprising.
"As soon as we saw the consumption rates FDA had determined, it was laughable. They didn't even pass the straight-face test," she said.
The NRDC and more than 30 environmental and public interest groups sent a letter last week to FDA complaining of the discrepancy in consumption rates.
"We've been requesting that they adapt their standards for months and months and months now. This letter isn't the first time they've heard an outcry from people," said Peter Brabeck, environmental monitor for the Louisiana Bucket Brigade.
FDA defended its use of national data on seafood consumption.
"FDA is not aware of any published data upon which we can rely for seafood consumption figures other than what we used," said Sebastian Cianci, a spokesman for FDA, in an e-mail to Greenwire. He said the agency is reviewing the NRDC study to see if it is a suitable source of consumption data
Beyond seafood consumption rates, Gulf environmental groups say FDA's testing and monitoring methods are inadequate and rely on too few samples. When NOAA opened up 5,130 square miles of Gulf waters for fishing in September, it based the opening on sensory tests of 123 samples and chemical analyses of 183 specimens composited into 27 samples.
Since it is difficult to statistically represent the entire Gulf of Mexico, FDA "adopted a sampling strategy that gave us great confidence that the samples collected were adequately representative of the worst-case scenario for oil spill and dispersant residues," Cianci said.
FDA and NOAA continue to monitor the Gulf, and Cianci said they have not found merit in any reports of tainted seafood. But many environmental groups are carrying out their own sampling and gathering results from independent labs, citing stories of fishermen finding tarballs in fishing nets.
Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper Paul Orr, working with technical adviser and chemist Wilma Subra and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, has collected samples from the west edge of the oil spill's damage all the way to the Louisiana-Mississippi border. On Monday, Orr released data on oysters, blue crab, mussels, shrimp and other seafood showing levels of PAHs and petroleum hydrocarbons.
He has not compared the data to any standards of safe levels because he said just finding any standards on total petroleum hydrocarbons has proved difficult. According to Subra, FDA has no established level of concern for total petroleum hydrocarbons.
"I don't think we've really had to deal with having very much petroleum contamination in seafood before," Orr said. "I don't think [FDA was] prepared for dealing with something like this. I don't think many of us were prepared for something like this."
Orr said the seafood looked "perfect" when collected. Because of this, environmental groups say they want federal agencies to abandon the practice of performing a sensory test, or what Brabeck calls a "sniff test," as a first step to test for contamination.
"It's crazy to me that that's actually considered the legitimate form of testing," Brabeck said.
A panel of NOAA experts observes and sniffs the seafood samples sent in from states, and if the samples pass the test, they are sent off to an FDA lab for chemical analyses of composite tissue samples. If the samples pass those chemical tests, the area from which they came can be reopened for fishing.
The Louisiana Bucket Brigade has taken a different strategy with its sampling. Started 10 years ago to test pollution from refineries, the brigade is now handing out sampling kits to residents to test seafood, air and water. Residents collect samples, wrap them in foil or put them in a nonreactive container, and ship them off in bags to a certified lab. The Bucket Brigade then interprets the data for residents.
"It's trying to get the community ... to sample what they think needs to be sampled," Brabeck said, adding that it also gives a voice to the communities that have been affected by the spill.
The local knowledge is key, Brabeck said.
"These people have been there for generations, a lot of these people six generations of fishing," he said. "These guys, they know what their environment looks like. They know what their water looks like before and after the spill."
Turtle Time and Taking DNA for Uncle Sam
Posted by Teri Shore on December 13th, 2010
After the big turtle wrangling night, sea turtle activity on EcoBeach
slowed for a few nights. Turtle-time took over as we all got into the
rhythm of beach walking by night, sleeping for a few hours at a time,
eating and resting. The heat and humidity kept non-patroling activity to a low ebb. What day is it?
one slow night on the beach, an elusive sea turtle seemed to intentionally avoid the
patrols. We crossed her tracks once at the beginning of a midnight patrol as she attempted to nest (a false crawl). Then a short time later, the earlier patrol passed us on their return to the resort and called to report they had sighted a second set of
tracks just behind us, but no turtle. The turtle must have crawled up again just minutes after
our crew had passed. Then at 2:45 am as we were headed
back after an uneventful patrol, we found a third set of tracks not far from the first two leading to, finally, a
nest, but again no turtle. If it was the same sea turtle, and we don't know for sure, it
appears she intentionally eluded the research team. Sea turtles can see, hear and smell us and our figures on the beach could make a nesting female wary.
On the second morning that my patrol returned from a night camping at
Jack's Creek, we exhumed another nest and found a hatchling still
struggling in the nest after all its mates had gone. Once again we were
able to release the little flatback into the sea and hope it had enough
strength to swim beyond the low waves.
Finally on our last night, we got busy with turtles again. This night we
needed to take an extra step by clipping a tiny piece of flipper to fulfill a
special request for flatback DNA by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The CVA project here at EcoBeach managed by Glenn McFarlane is the only project in Australia where flatback DNA sampling is being conducted in 2010. So after I helped get flipper tag numbers, measure the sea turtle, and mark her nest, I assisted Tony in preparing the rear flipper for a quick clip of the flipper to put in a vile. Then we needed to break normal beach protocols and take a picture of the sea turtle with the DNA sample to document the sample for Uncle Sam. This is the only picture of me with a sea turtle for the week -- my hand holding the DNA sample!
Earlier that same night, the Jack's Creek patrol was lucky enough to see a daylight nests on their way out to camp. One of the Shell volunteers was generous enough to share his fantastic photos, which you see above. So far flatbacks have laid more than 60 nests! Next week, the CVA sea turtle tagging and monitoring team will be leaving the beach for the season and the first CVA EcoBeach hatchling program will begin to monitor the hatchlings as they emerge from the nests.
Posted by Teri Shore on December 10th, 2010
Last night I spent almost the whole night out on the beach with our crew of “turtle wranglers” and today slept all day and through dinner! It was a long night but exciting.
It was a all-girl team of four working with Glenn the research leader. I've learned first-hand that Australian flatbacks are far more skittish than the loggerhead. So instead of working with the turtle after she goes into her egg-laying trance, we must wait until it is done nesting and headed back to sea to tag, measure, get DNA. That means we need to stop the turtle as it heads for home, the ocean. Last night we ran into one big, strong female at high tide. So there wasn’t much sand between us and the water.
Rika, our Japanese student, was the on-point wrangler for this turtle. But she could not stop her. So I jumped in and was face to face with the sea turtle, hands on either side of her head pushing against her shell. I was able to slow her to a stop. But when Glenn clamped the tags into her flipper, she was not pleased and started hissing and snapping. Yes these sea turtles hiss, kind of like a cross between a cat and a dragon!
The turtle was like a tank pushing down the slope so a third woman, our French delegate from Shell, joined the frontline trying to hold her back. Then there was the second tag. Ouch! Run to the sea. We started getting wet from the surf. Now for the DNA sample! Ouch, hiss, push, slide.
Finally as the tide started washing over our legs, Glenn was done and the turtle released! We collapsed in the sand, exhilarated and exhausted. The sea turtle, unharmed, slips back into the sea.
And that was just the beginning of the night! We had one more turtle which was much more docile to work with. Then we observed several false crawls, and stopped to check on several nests due to hatch; and finally got back to camp by 3 am. We slept until 4:30 am in our tents – this was our first night camping down the beach at Jack's Creek, 12 kilomoeters from the resort.
After we got up for the morning drive-by patrol (the only time we use the truck) and had to stop numerous times to mark and measure tracks and nests from turtles we missed during the night.
We also needed to exhume two nests that had hatched. In one, we found two live hatchlings in the nest that had not made it to the surface. Because the tide was now so low [it’s been a 7 to 9 meter tide variation], we had to drive a ways and then walk across the mud flats to release the stragglers.
And then another set of tracks to measure and mark! So we finally got back to camp at 7:15 am, time to shower and eat breakfast at 8 am. Then I went back to bed and slept all day, literally sleeping until 5 pm and missing dinner, which we eat early at 4:15 pm due to the sea turtle patrol schedule.
One of the turtle leaders came to wake me up! I was lucky that when I came down to the main area that the cook took mercy on me and served me up a plate!
Now I am wide awake and will probably just stay up until my shift begins at 12 midnight to 3 am!
Photos of sea turtles by Dave and Fiona Harvey, a naturalist couple who lead turtle and whale tours for EcoBeach Resort. They are lovely people who just left here as it is the end of the season. If you want to contact them about photos, they can be reached at email@example.com Please don't use photos without permission! All of our sea turtles have come sshore at night when no flash photography is allowed! The Harveys have been fortunate enough to capture several daylight nesters!
Flatback Researchers at EcoBeach Find Nesters Returning in Consecutive Years
Posted by Teri Shore on December 8th, 2010
On our first night patrol, we "new" recruits worked our first flatback sea turtle on EcoBeach under the direction of Conservation Volunteers Australia marine species manager Glenn McFarlane and his co-leader Tony. The flatback is smaller and more "feminine" than the big old dinosaur-like loggerheads at Mon Repos on the Queensland coast that I worked with earlier this year. These turtles are truly flatter in the carapace, a light olive grey and the flippers smaller but just as powerful.
With a New Moon, the beach was really dark but the skies spectacular with the Milky Way and the Southern Cross fully bright. The tides have been extreme making it impossible to patrol the north end of the beach at Jack's Creek. With the wind and tides, it seemed perfect for flatback nesting but last night, our third walking the beach, no turtles were sighted.
Then early this morning at 4:45 am just before sunrise, sea turtle research leader Tony drove us along the beach out to Jack's creek at low tide to see what was missed. Sure enough on the stretch of beach beyond where we were able to patrol at high tide, we found sea turtle tracks. Most were "false crawls," meaning the female did not leave any eggs behind. But we did discover one nest in the dunes!
So far this year more than 60 nests have been found and marked. The first nest of the season hatched two nights ago. The night patrol found the tiny tracks and returned a couple of days later to exhume the nest. Almost all eggs had hatched successfully (98 percent).
Flatbacks lay only 50 eggs compared to most other species which generally drop 100 or more eggs into the nest. The flatback eggs are larger in size and perhaps this gives them an edge. The science on this is still not definitive.
Glenn has made a significant finding after only three seasons tagging flatbacks here: It appears that nearly 75 percent of these females nest every year! Nowhere else in the world have so many sea turtles been tagged only to return in subsequent years to nest. One of these flatbacks nested all three years (2008, 2009, 2010). Glenn hopes to present the research to date at the International Sea Turtle Symposium in San Diego in 2011.
Photos by Teri Shore, top to bottom: Teri and sea turtle tracks on EcoBeach, a false crawl with tracks in several directions, and Tony of Conservation Volunteers Australia tagging a nest.
Oceans Career Launch as a STRP Intern
Posted by Lindsay Elam, Marine Biologist on December 8th, 2010
When I first learned that I would be an intern for the Sea Turtle Restoration Project (STRP) I was ecstatic, especially since I just graduated UCSC with a Marine Biology degree and this was my first real world experience in marine conservation! I have learned so much on the issues concerning sea turtles around the world, along with what measures STRP takes to help manage these issues. My experience at STRP has made me realize I want to get into marine conservation and help save our oceans!
During my time at STRP, I was able to take on several projects, including: educating children about the seven species of sea turtles and why they are endangered, along with the effect of the Gulf oil spill; helped research for the AB 1998 Plastics Report, and refocused this report into three reports focusing on (1) U.S. West Coast, (2) California, and (3) Oregon; co-authored the U.S. West Coast Sea Turtle report; creating up to date volunteer resources where STRP can post opportunities for volunteers; created a guide on how to write a letter to elected officials about environmental and social issues; created a guideline to social media at STRP (a how to navigate through STRP’s facebook and twitter pages); edited Wikipedia pages with relation to STRP’s achievements; created a detailed list of useful educational material on sea turtles for teachers and for STRP to adopt. Also during my time at STRP I was given the opportunity to table at the Cal Academy Nightlife for Sharktober (10/14/10), helping to collect signatures for two petitions: to help save the Kimberly Coast in Australia and the Australian Flatbacks, from big oil companies, and to stop the Swordfish and Tuna Longline fishery in Florida to be labeled at “eco-friendly”; postcards were also encouraged to be signed, about three issues: (1) Obama, (2) Costa Rica Leatherbacks, and (3) the Kemp’s Ridley. I was also lucky enough to help table and sell merchandise at STRP’s Sea Turtle Saturday (11/6/10) at the Aquarium of the Bay.
One of the main issues I worked on while at STRP was plastic pollution and long-line fisheries endangering sea turtles globally. It is heartbreaking to see how many turtles drown from entanglement from long-lining, as well as how many turtles die from starvation due to the amount of plastics they have consumed. Being able to help raise awareness of these issues and help petition these issues was truly a rewarding and an eye opening experience.
My time at STRP has been truly rewarding and far exceeded my expectations. I was taught something new everyday. All the professional skills and experiences I have acquired while working at STRP, will benefit me in any career. I am very grateful I was able to work with such a dedicated organization.
Kimberley Activists Face Off with Private Security in Defense of James Price Point
Posted by Teri Shore on December 4th, 2010
I just arrived in Broome to stay with activists who are on the ground defending James Price Point from oil company invasion. The release of the "strategic assessment" is due in a week, and the gas hub not approved yet, but Woodside Petroleum is already preparing to clear brush and set up camps.
The blog Hands Off Country is documenting the defense and latest news, including court cases related to native title issues and the manipulation of the legal system by interests favorable to the industrialization of the Kimberley coast.
Watch Video of Australian activists rallying for the Kimberley
Posted by Teri Shore on December 3rd, 2010
Aboriginal activist Neil McKenzie who visited us earlier this year tells Premier Collin Barnett that the people will not back down in fighting for the preservation of the Kimberley and stopping oil and gas exploitation.
Sea Turtle Advocacy in Sacramento
Posted by Chris Pincetich, Campaigner and Marine Biologist on December 2nd, 2010
Sometimes protecting the oceans and sea turtles means driving away from the sea, as I did this week on a trip to meet with California legislators, activists, and the Ocean Protection Council in our state’s capitol city of Sacramento. I was joined by super-star ocean activist and regular STRP volunteer Deb Castellena. We had a plan where we could split up and accomplish all of our many goals for the day if needed. Sacramento is always an adventure!
A massive press event was scheduled at 11:00am to highlight governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s strong support of state and local plastic bag bans as a means to improve the environment and save the lives of wildlife, like sea turtles. At the same time, I was scheduled to attend the rare public meeting of the Ocean Protection Council (OPC) to testify on behalf of our work developing ways to reduce bycatch from fisheries. The OPC meeting started first, and Deb and I both were pleased to share our Gulf activism stories with those friends we could meet with before the meeting started. Once underway, Deb left early to set up her camera at the plastic bag ban press event, but I stayed at the OPC meeting waiting for my agenda item….and waiting.
California is working towards developing their own sustainable seafood guidelines, and the preliminary draft of their proposal, which we helped shape, was presented at the meeting and is open for public comment through January 18, 2011.
I spoke in support of zero bycatch of endangered, protected, or threatened species in California’s fisheries attempting to gain the sustainable certification. Yes, ZERO BYCATCH! This goal is clearly stated in the long-standing Marine Mammal Protection Act, and in reality, some fisheries already can boast zero bycatch of endangered sea turtles and marine mammals. Allowing only those fisheries to proceed with a sustainable certification is the best option to protect California’s endangered leatherback sea turtles.
I also made sure that the entire OPC and everyone in the room was aware that the California Drift Gill-Net fishery has up to 50% bycatch and recorded a take on endangered leatherbacks last year. This fishery targets swordfish and sharks, two species so high in mercury that we should not even eat them. Near closing my comments, I made it clear that we can be a trusted resource to the OPC for their needs to gain information on California’s deadly fisheries and the abundance of data we have on the contamination of our seafood by mercury from our Got Mercury? Project.
The OPC and other folks commenting were all interested in expanded contamination testing of our seafood for our own sustainable health and to perhaps clear-up some public perceptions about contaminants tainting local seafood in Southern California. We strongly support this position and will be working with the OPC towards achieving strong contaminant testing in the sustainable seafood program.
The plastic bag ban press event was a huge success! We were disappointed that the organizers decided against a sea turtle and oceans rally along with the standard podium and speeches, but we were happy to be there showing strong support. An excellent video compilation featuring speeches by Schwarzenegger, Brownly, and an articulate Girl Scout was shot and edited by Deb and is below.