Aussies Protest Big Oil
Posted by Teri Shore on November 30th, 2010
Read the story.
Kimberley Rally to Stop Massive Gas Plant Draws a Crowd!
Posted by Teri Shore on November 29th, 2010
About 1,000 people turned out in Cottesloe, the cool beachside town that the Western Australian premier Collin Bennett calls home, to drive home a simple message: Save the Kimberley! I missed the Sunday, November 28, rally as I was on an airplane flying from San Francisco to Sydney and lost that day in transit! Now I'm here in Fremantle gearing up for a week of meetings and actions with the Wilderness Society of W.A. before heading off to Broome to help monitor Australian flatback sea turtles at EcoBeach!
Watch the blog and Facebook for updates over the next three weeks!
See the Save the Kimberley news coverage in the West Australian.
And on ABC News Australia.
Fun and Games with Chevron
Posted by Teri Shore , Program Director on November 17th, 2010
A dispatch from Rainforest Action Network's Change Chevron Campaign:
Continuing the comedic wave of Chevron's new 'We Agree' ad campaign, check out the latest video from the folks at Funny Or Die -- this time a behind the scenes look at how Chevron came up with its ad concept -- an "Anatomy of a Greenwash," if you will. Here's the link:
Nothing like comedy to reach the hearts and minds. Please share with your networks.
And if you haven't done so already, please vote now for your favorite Chevron We Agree spoof ad:
RAN is doing this jointly with Amazon Watch and The Yes Men and have received some 200 entries from creative designers around the world. The winners will receive a framed copy of their ad signed by The Yes Men and will be mass produced and posted across the country by our supporters. RAN will be announcing the winners this Friday.
Australian Activists Protest Big Oil Invasion of Kimberley
Posted by on November 17th, 2010
The fight against the proposed new LNG plant in the Kimberley region of Northwestern Australia is heating up with protestors blocking the access road to James Price Point. Big Oil is preparing to clear out ancient bush in order to make way for the fossil fuel boondoggle.
Thousands of postcards from people who want to protect the Kimberley are being delivered this week to the Prime Minister of Australia in Canberra.
Activists loaded up a camel with the postcards to launch the send-off of the postcards.
Read the full story at ABC News Australia.
Saving Sea Turtles from Plastics on the Streets of Los Angeles
Posted by Ashley Platz, actress and sea turtle volunteer on November 16th, 2010
Sea turtle advocate and STRP supporter Ashley Platz rallied with oceans activists led by folks at Heal the Bay on the
steps of the Hall of Administration on Temple Street in Downtown, Los
Angeles to support a plastic bag ban. Here is her story from the front line:
Everyone was wearing blue shirts and holding signs that read
slogans like; "Ban The Bag," "Dolphins Don't Shop," & "$21 every
second is wasted making plastic bags."
This friendly group of a few in
blue, soon grew to a small friendly mob of chanting hearts. Tons of
attention was grabbed from the media, to pedestrians, to city employees
on their way to work and even some drivers passing by the scene.
By 9:30 am all attention was on
Even with my background in oceans and sea turtle conservation I was astonished to learn some of the more recent numbers, such
as 1 shopper per year will use on average 500 plastic bags. Learning and acting to solve problems for sea turtles is
why I think this rally was fantastic, and because of all the facts behind the horrors of plastic bag pollution I am not surprised that LA County
passed the plastic bag ban. I am proud to live in a county that listens
to it's people and respects the fact that GREEN jobs will be brought
into Los Angeles to create the fabric shopping bags that will soon be a
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors put the plastic bag ban measure to vote, and it passed 3-1! This historic decision will need to pass another vote to finalize the language of the future ordinance, which will go in to effect in 2011. Click here to read more about this historic decision.
I was really proud to represent the sea turtles as a volunteer with the Sea Turtle Restoration Project (STRP). Being far from their main office hasn't stopped me from making a big difference, whether it is attending a local rally, using my Facebook page to share STRP action alerts, or creating the STRP Facebook Cause page, which now has over 15,000 supports!
Photo: Ashley Platz, far right, holds a sign showing a sea turtle suffocating on a plastic bag at the L.A. County hearing. (photo credit Kristin Carlisle).
Six Months of BP Oil Toxic Turmoil for Sea Turtles in the Gulf of Mexico
Posted by Chris Pincetich, Campaigner and Marine Biologist on October 22nd, 2010
Recently I have received personal Thank You letters from children and invitations to speak or write about the BP spill, but while the support is greatly appreciated it barely buoys my heavy heart that still feels the deep pain and suffering of thousands of sea turtles, sea birds, marine mammals, and the wonderful people in the Gulf coast communities that were impacted by the BP oil spill. We are now six months from the horrific explosion that triggered the massive gusher of crude oil. Even more troubling is thinking of how 5 months ago the Gulf was covered in fresh, toxic oil and the public had no idea of the true extent of the amount of oil spewing into the homes of 5 species of sea turtles. BP's "controlled burns" started at the beginning of May, and it was not until June 11 that a fisherman was brave enough to share with the world his firsthand account of sea turtles that BP allowed to be dragged into the burn zones alive.
Six months have passed, but that is only a fraction of the time we expect to be monitoring the oil spill's effects on sea turtles, seafood safety, and the long-term impacts of the BP spill. In a recent interview on KPFA's award winning radio show Flashpoints with Denis Bernstein, I shared my concerns about the current conditions, the need for more transparent science, and how the Sea Turtle Restoration Project wants conditions in the Gulf to change in order to assist sea turtle recovery and restoration.
To listen to the radio interview, which includes gripping accounts from Louisiana residents and fishermen, click here.
To download and read out latest report outlining steps needed to assist sea turtle recovery and habitat restoration, click here.
All the support and appreciation shared to date has been tremendous, and I want to extend a huge amount of gratitude to all those that have written in, called, or sent donations to the Sea Turtle Restoration Project over the last month. Thank You!
Blue and Humpback Whales Abundant in Search for Leatherback Sea Turtles Offshore of San Francisco
Posted by Chris Pincetich, Campaigner and Marine Biologist on October 19th, 2010
Educating the public about the biology, ecology, and conservation challenges faced by critically endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles is always a satisfying experience for me. While many Californians take pride in their stewardship of the beautiful ecosystems in their backyard and offshore of our beaches, very few folks are aware that sea turtles call our oceans home for many months of the year.
"Really? Those sea turtles are around here? I had no idea!"
"I've never heard of leatherback sea turtles."
"There are sea turtles in California? Where do they make their nests? How many are there? Is it just leatherbacks that eat jellyfish?"
The leatherback sea turtle is the largest of all sea turtle species and is specially adapted to thrive when in the cold waters of the California current. The green, loggerhead, and olive ridley sea turtles frequently forage offshore of Southern California while the leatherback has been observed as far north as the Canadian border. The cold currents are home to its favorite jellyfish prey, the brown sea nettle. A single leatherback sea turtle can eat hundreds of jellyfish each day when their dense populations aggregate in ocean current convergences.
I joined an expedition with other ocean conservationists and California tourists to search for the elusive leatherback in an area where high densities have been recorded, the oceans outside of San Francisco and out to the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. The trip was part of SHARKTOBER events led by film producer and activist David McGuire and I was invited along as a guest Naturalist. Also on board was STRP volunteer extraordinaire Deb Castellena. Our vessel, the Outer Limits, was smooth as silk and the pride of the fleet for the SF Bay Whale Watching operation. We departed at dawn with a full boat and overcast skies.
The arrival at the Farallone Islands was spectacular! This small refuge is the largest pelagic sea bird nesting site on the west coast of the U.S., supporting hundreds of thousands of birds that are rarely if ever seen while on land.
Our goal was to spot rare leatherback sea turtles and document their location with coordinates and photographs. We were also on the lookout for great white sharks, which migrate to this area in the fall. And of course, whales! We had been on the boat for over 2 hours and not a single whale blow had been spotted, but as we motored south of the southeast islands, things changes quickly. A small group of humpback whales was spotted and they slowly approached our boat. We all scrambled to see them, take pictures, and smell that unforgettable "whale breath."
Then the blue whales arrived and stole the show. Massive in their overall proportions, it is quite a sight to see the tiny dorsal fin that pokes up from the largest living creature on earth. Our boat stopped, but the blues kept coming. We were all amazed when two blues surfaced only 100 meters from the boat, and then 3 humpbacks surfaced right in front of them! The video clip below captured by Deb documented this rare moment none of us will ever forget.
David and I spent the entire afternoon answering questions about sea turtles, whales, sharks, sea birds and the dense aggregations of krill we could see from the surface. Working in cooperation with other ocean conservationists only serves to strengthen our message, which was very well received by all on board. We had a great time doing it too, as can be seen in the photo on the right (Chris Pincetich, left; David McGuire, right).
Unfortunately, no leatherbacks were sighted on this trip. We have gathered information from several other charter operations confirming the presence of leatherbacks off of California right now, and will be publishing these soon. The work of an endangered species biologist can be difficult when attempts to gather observations of rare species are fruitless, but in this case, dozens of passengers joined the Sea Turtle Restoration Project email list, even more took our printed newsletters home to read and share, and they all saw unforgettable sights that will no doubt increase their love for the oceans and desire for their conservation.
Sharing the Deadly Truth About Longlines
Posted by Chris Pincetich, Campaigner and Marine Biologist on October 15th, 2010
Sometimes, the truth can be ugly. This is definitely the case when discussing how so many seafood diners start with the deadly practice of longline fishing, a commercial fishing gear type that kills thousands of sea turtles, dolphins, sharks, and sea birds each year. International longline boats have a horrible reputation for fishing in closed areas for shark fins, creating massive amounts of marine debris, and killing countless sea turtles. When approached while fishing illegally, they have been documented cutting their lines in a rush to escape and leaving miles of abandoned line, hooks, and dead sea life that can continue to harm ocean for decades to come.
Saving sea turtles means bringing this horrible practice of longlining and the massive bycatch it creates to a stop. Education is one tool to stop longlines, but only if consumers take the necessary step of halting their purchases of swordfish and tuna, which are the two species targeted by most longline fisheries.
This video below shows a display of the massive number of innocent sea turtles and marine life killed as bycatch in longines. It was set up in the California Academy of Sciences during a Night Life event by Sea Stewards in partnership with the Sea Turtle Restoration Project. Thousands of guests learned a valuable lesson, that the swordfish on their dinner plate comes at a high cost, the lives of innocent sea turtles, dolphins, and sharks.
Special recognition should be made to David McGuire and all the fabulous volunteers at Sea Stewards.
Saving Hawaii's tropical fish and coral reefs from demise
Posted by Teri Shore on October 11th, 2010
|Yellow tang, Snorkel Bob photo, copyright - do not use without permission|
Hawaii conservationist, author and reef photographer Robert Wintner, also known as Snorkel Bob, explained the need to protect tropical fish and corals from the aquarium trade during a media and ocean community briefing today in San Francisco. He warned of uncontrolled tropical fish collection by commercial collectors in the Hawaiian Islands.
"The aquarium trade is a severe threat to reefs and tourism and an affront to Hawaiian culture," said Wintner, who is Executive Director of the Snorkel Bob Foundation and owner of Snorkel Bob's across Hawaii.
He recently helped establish regulations to control aquarium extraction in Maui County and underwrote legal action to protect Pacific leatherbacks from swordfish hooks in the Hawaii longline fleet. He is in the San Francisco Bay Area launch his new book, "Some Fishes I Have Known," which profiles reef fish in a social setting and underscores the threat posed by commercial aquarium extraction. See his blog on the Huffington Post. Download his bio here. Download book info here. Download fact sheet on Hawaiian aquarium trade here.
Robert explained that the incredibly bright yellow tangs that grace the cover of the book are easy to catch and often used as "loss leaders" by tropical fish stores to sell other more expensive species. Robert explained that the Kona Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii was once called the Gold Coast because yellow tangs numbering in the hundreds of thousands swam along the reefs there. Now they are mostly gone. Once captured and shipped to California or China or elsewhere around the globe, the yellow tangs usually die within 30 days of captivity. And where these fish have been decimated, coral reefs suffer and die from overgrowth of algae that the yellow tangs keep in check.
Another victim of the aquarium trade is the Hawaiian cleaner wrasse, which is considered charismatic and in demand by the aquarium trade. However, this specialized fish will starve in 30 days without 30 to 40 other fish to clean daily. Hawaiian cleaner wrasses protect reefs from parasite infestation, yet they ship out daily by the hundreds from Hawaii with no limit and no constraint.
What to do?
Robert is leading the effort to establish laws in Hawaii to regulate aquarium collection. A Maui ordinance recently adopted by the county government will take the first steps to slow carte blanche extraction.
We at Turtle Island Restoration Network support his call to to rein in this trade of marine wildlife for aquariums, which is no different than any other "pet" trade - remember wild macaws and other birds being taken before laws were enacted?
Here are some other actions that we agree will help turn the tide:
1. Home aquarium collectors need to learn about the source of their tropical fish; and when the fish die, instead of replenishing, take the aquarium down for good.
2. People who love reefs and fish can replace the color and beauty in their home with alternatives like projecting lifelike images on a flatscreen TV. Have you ever seen those fake holograph fireplaces that look so realistic?
3. Set standards through state and federal for aquarium collection and if needed ban the practice to protect the health of coral reefs. With global warming, the world's coral reefs are at risk. Hawaii's could be the last intact coral reefs to survive. They should be given a chance for long-term survival.
Summer Internship Reflections
Posted by Amy Kreimeier, Summer Intern on September 27th, 2010
My internship with STRP this summer has taught me more than I could have imagined on the issues concerning the welfare of sea turtles around the globe. The professional experience and skills that I acquired while working the STRP offices this summer will benefit me in almost any career I choose.
When I first learned that I would be an intern for STRP I was beyond thrilled, I have always been an advocate and supporter of sea turtle protection. It was not until I arrived at STRP did I fully come to understand all of the factors occurring in oceans and on land that affect sea turtles around the world. To hear about the effect plastic pollution has on endangered leatherback sea turtles and long-line fishing techniques being used around the globe that drown sea turtles daily is truly heartbreaking.
Over the summer I was able to take on several projects and duties at STRP including: educating children about endangered sea turtles and the effect the Gulf Coast oil spill has on populations; researching new information on sea turtles and compiling a list of achievements STRP has had with each particular species of turtle; assisting with publicity for the upcoming art show and auction; creating and managing the Facebook page ONE MILLION AGAINST BP OIL BURNING SEA TURTLES and working with the Got Mercury campaign.
The majority of my time at STRP was spent working on the Got Mercury campaign, which helps bring awareness to the issue of mercury in seafood. If more efforts are taken to ban mercury-laden fish, such as tuna and swordfish, from consumers there will be less long-line fishing and less sea turtles, who are caught and drowned in these lines. I helped to compile a list of all studies and articles that pertain to mercury in waterways and fish so that they can be easily referenced. I also worked daily to post on all blog and newspaper articles that related to mercury consumption directions to a personal mercury intake calculator at gotmercury.org. Using my social media skills I also promoted Got Mercury on the web and expanded it’s fan base.
To work for this organization during the worst environmental crisis ever, has been intense and humbling. The effects this oil spill has on endangered sea turtles, particularly nesting Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, has brought worldwide attention to the plight of sea turtles. STRP was overloaded with calls and media requests on a daily basis and it was a very valuable experience to be a part of.
My time at STRP has been truly rewarding going far beyond my expectations. Every day was a new experience that taught me something different. I am so thankful that I was able to help this organization and work with such amazing and dedicated people.
Gulf Shrimpers Collecting Oil and Shrimp on the Same Day
Posted by Chris Pincetich, Campaigner and Marine Biologist on September 17th, 2010
Concerns over Gulf of Mexico seafood seem to be validated by this video clip below taken just outside the Mississippi River in late August. Shrimp boats dot the horizon, even before sunset, and while some are carrying BP booms to cleanup oil others are catching seafood for consumption.
Some Gulf shrimpers refuse to trawl for seafood, knowing there is oil lurking below the surface and they may be contributing to serving toxic seafood. Their reluctance is also due to the overwhelming media and U.S. agency response that the Gulf is no longer troubled by oil, and they know firsthand this is not the case.
As a sea turtle conservation advocate, I already have banned shrimp from my kitchen and ignore it when on a restaurant menu. Shrimp trawls kill hundreds of sea turtles a year! For millions of Gulf residents, they now must consider their own boycott of shrimp to save themselves.
To read more about current seafood and environmental sampling, visit the Louisiana Environmental Action Network.
Whole Foods Selling Seafood Deadly to Sea Turtles
Posted by Teri Shore, Program Director on September 13th, 2010
Whole Foods is pushing more seafood in order to "save" the oceans, and at the expense of endangered sea turtles.
The new “sustainable seafood”
red-yellow-green color coding program announced today by Whole Foods totally ignores that
longlining for swordfish and tuna kills sea turtles by the thousands. And that tuna and swordfish is often laden with mercury so high that women who want children should not it eat. See the Whole Foods press release posted by D, a Dallas-based foodie blog.
While Whole Foods is claiming it will remove "red listed" fish in the future, if you try to figure which fish, you can't. That's because it is "mixing and matching" store by store the different seafood "sustainability" standards by EITHER the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch OR the Blue Ocean Institute, which are different. For example, the Blue Ocean Institute does not list ANY swordfish as red and gives a GREEN to all U.S. wild caught and farmed shrimp. Pelagic longlining and shrimp trawling kill THOUSANDS of sea turtles every year; and every species is in danger of extinction. Monterey Bay Aquarium still lists Hawaii longline swordfish and tuna as "good alternatives" even though the fishery continues to increase the number of sea turtles it captures. So I suppose that each Whole Foods store will choose which seafood guide to follow depending on the price of fish.
By the way, Whole Foods is definitely not the “first” to use color coded schemes for seafood
counters. They STOLE the concept from Fishwise in California.
Whole Foods is also bankrolling the certification by the Marine Stewardship Council of a Florida longline fishery that captures and kills endangered leatherback sea turtles and declining loggerheads that are proposed for endangered listing. If the swordfish and tuna fishery gets the eco-label it seeks, then every other wasteful bycatch fishery in the U. S., Canada and around the world will line up. How can any rational person, fisher, corporation or spin-master really believe that a fishery that kills or harms more than 50 percent of what it catches can be sustainable or ocean friendly?
Well, Whole Foods can because it is big, a brilliant marketer and makes billions. It is the WalMart of the environment. And it is making protecting sea turtles and the oceans harder every day as it markets "sustainability" to the end of the line.
can’t eat our way out of overexploited oceans. We need to eat less fish and
be very picky, like eating catfish and tilapia, not swordfish, shark or
Sea Turtles and Marine Mammals Return to the Gulf
Posted by Chris Pincetich, Campaigner and Marine Biologist on September 10th, 2010
Over a million gallons of BP oil and dispersants is likely lurking in the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, but near the surface, sea turtles, whales, and marine life is returning slowly. My friend and professional photographer Jerry Moran just shared more of his amazing work with the Sea Turtle Restoration Project.
Working together with Jerry, Bonnie flying her Cessna as On Wings of Care, Brock Cahill and others in the Gulf volunteering to help with our work through Sea Shepherd, and many others formed a tight family that is still in touch regularly. During a recent aerial survey, Jerry and Bonnie ditched the plan and used their gut instinct and in the process were rewarded! They encountered leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles, whale sharks feeding, and a sperm whale. Click here to view more of Jerry's photos from that day, taken out the window of a moving airplane, but sharp and clear.
Many questions remain about the effects of BP oil and dispersants to sea turtles, the Gulf ecosystem, and the health of residents of Gulf coastal communities. To hear the expert opinions of local Louisiana Bucket Brigade director Anne Rolfes leading health surveys and marine biologist and toxicologist Dr. Chris Pincetich of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, click here for the public radio blog and broadcast archive.
Sea turtles are still immersed and eating from oceans containing BP oil and dispersants. Monitoring of these Gulf sea turtles is taking place by professional sea turtle veterinarians scouring the habitat on boats. STRP rode along one of these trips and captured the following video of Dr. Brain Stacy and Dr. Joe Flanagan assessing the health of a young Kemp's ridley sea turtle then taking a blood sample from it for analysis.
The Gulf Spill - Australia's Kimberley next?
Posted by Teri Shore, Program Director on September 1st, 2010
Watch this news clip and you'll understand why I am so passionate about doing what I can to help protect this country for people, sea turtles and the planet.
Want to see it yourself? Join me on the Flatback Ecotour December 6 to 13, 2010. You will never forget it. Read more.
Offshore and Underwater Searching for Gulf Sea Turtles
Posted by Chris Pincetich, Campaigner and Marine Biologist on August 23rd, 2010
The search for BP oil spill effects has evolved along with the current conditions, meaning our Sea Turtle Action Team organized an expedition with local expert marine biologists and SCUBA divers to document any BP oil and effects we could find underwater. Dedicated Sea Turtle Restoration Project volunteers had flown to the Gulf of Mexico to help us save sea turtles from the oil and highlight their plight. With larger numbers, we charter two boats and launched from Venice, Louisiana to reach deep water as quickly as possible.
Our goal was to reach the dense mats of floating sargassum seaweed and look in, around, and under for sea turtles and oil. Secondarily, we had identified several offshore oil rigs that our guides, Captain Al Walker and Scott Porter, had dove under for many years to document the coral reefs and the myriad marine life they support. Leaving the Mississippi River from South Pass, we left the brown freshwater behind and entered the deeper green water of the Gulf quickly. Below us the ocean depth dropped from hundreds of feet to over a thousand feet. I watched as Captain Al Walker was shaking his head in disbelief as our boats passed quickly through a barren ocean usually thick with sargassum mats at this time of year.
During our voyage offshore, STRP volunteers Deb Castellena, Winnie Lam, and Tiffany Lane took meticulous notes on all wildlife sightings. I had trained them to spot and identify sea turtles and other marine life, and was proud to see them rigorously recording their observations on our data sheets. In the other boat, dedicated Sea Shepherd volunteers Brock Cahill and Charles Hermison had the same data sheets and the same rigorous approach to observing and recording wildlife. As our boats approached the first offshore rig and potential dive site, we had not seen a single marine mammal, sea turtle, or patch of floating sargassum. Very depressing.
Scott Porter has used SCUBA to document the evolution of the underwater structures on offshore oil rigs from bare metal into diverse coral reef ecosystems where he regularly sees sea turtles. He works with Steve Kolian and others on project EcoRigs, documenting, educating , and advocating to preserve these habitats when others wish to completely destroy the rigs when the wells run dry. We partnered as dive buddies, and Al Walker and Brock Cahill formed another pair of divers to explore the underwater habitat and find sea turtles.
What we discovered was un-nerving and uplifting. Coral, fish, and sea turtles have persisted, but small marine fish and jellyfish were mysteriously absent. Our video caught a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle swimming by! Scott Porter described the dive and how we had descended through an unusual layer that he described as dispersed oil. I too had seen the layer of light brown, stringy substances floating in the water column at about 10-15 feet of depth, completely out of sight from the surface. Scott pointed out dark stains on his suit and on mine, oily brown marks that rubbed off on us from contacting the marine life. Neither Scott nor Al had seen this substance rub off on their gear prior to the BP oil spill. We took samples. All sea turtles and marine life must now cope with this dispersed oil and residue throughout the Gulf.
Keeping a close watch on the surface as we sped towards home, I spotted a line of smooth water that appeared off from the blue green of the surrounding seas. Our boat slowed and we all gasped as a big, brown streak of oil appeared! Once again the pens were flying across the data sheets, the cameras were rolling and clicking, and many water samples were taken. Our team did a thorough job of documenting the oil and marine life, and our samples have been sent to accredited laboratories for oil and dispersant laboratories.
The final stretch home through the Mississippi River wetlands along Tiger Pass revealed an amazing diversity of life in the rosy light of the setting sun. We witnessed hundreds of rosette spoonbills, herons, egrets, laughing gulls, and a few alligators. It was a long day on the water and a very revealing and rewarding experience partnering with local and international groups to highlight the plight of endangered sea turtles in the BP oil spill.
To see the entire expedition mapped online with additional detail and photos, visit Trimble's new application page, Map the Spill.
FOX News 8 from New Orleans covered our expedition on a nightly news exclusive, complete with footage of the elusive Kemp's ridley that swam by quickly
Onboard with the Unified Command Sea Turtle Rescue Team
Posted by Chris Pincetich, Campaigner and Marine Biologist on August 21st, 2010
I joined the Unified Command on-water sea turtle capture team to witness their current operations; searching for sea turtles offshore in the sargassum seaweed, recording observations, capturing sea turtles, and evaluating the captured sea turtles’ health and oiled condition. Our team consisted of veterinarians Dr. Brain Stacy and Dr. Joe Flanagan, a two person boat crew, Jonathan from Inwater, and conservation group representatives David Godfrey, James Hammond, and myself. David Godfrey is the executive director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy and John Hammond, Regional Executive Director, National Wildlife Federation.
Our target search area was a large congregation of sargassum that had been spotted by helicopter over 40 miles offshore of Louisiana and west of the Deepwater Horizon wreck site. We reached our destination and began searching for sea turtles and oil. Our team was joined by a smaller boat that could maneuver quickly and more efficiently capture the sea turtles. The first sea turtle, and immature Kemp’s ridley, was captured in the first half an hour by the smaller boat. It was weighed, measured, tagged and cleaned out of sight of our team. After being carefully transferred to our boat, the team of veterinarians further inspected the lively young sea turtle and took a blood sample. No visible oil was seen on the sea turtle or the towel used to carry it, but the capture boat did originally report it as lightly oiled.
After four hours of searching in the sargassum we observed 2 Kemp’s ridley juveniles. I was both sad and disappointed that the professional team working for months in the Gulf could only locate a pair of Kemp’s ridleys in an area usually teaming with life and home to five species of sea turtles. Apparently, our boat team did not have either the range or time to travel the additional 30 miles to reach the forecasted “rip line”, the area where the clean green water ends and deep blue water begins. This convergence zone is the habitat that sea turtles prefer and the area where any remaining oil is likely to exist.
It was frustration to hear our suggestions on ways the sea turtle rescue teams could have been expanded or improved disputed because “too many regulations exist” to modify the incident response operations.
The sargassum that serves as the nursery habitat for sea turtles, cover for juvenile and adult fishes, and home to myriad invertebrates had no obvious signs of oil in the small area we inspected. Hauling some on deck, our team found juvenile crabs, shrimp, and some encrusting bryozan epiphytes. Fishes were observed under the biggest of the sargassum patches, usually patches bigger than a basketball court.
However, another massive “oil” pollution problem was readily apparent from the second we approached the first patch of the sargassum habitat. Plastic pollution and marine debris littered the sargassum mats at an alarming density. Hundreds of items could be seen in each patch, from plastic lawn chairs to plastic forks. Plastic bags that looked just like jellyfish floated near broken plastic buckets and were surrounded by sargassum. While BP is ready to vacate its cleanup responsibilities on the open ocean because their oil in now dispersed in the lower water column, there needs to be a new wave of cleanup crews deployed to tackle that plague of plastic polluting the essential sea turtle and fish habitat in the Gulf of Mexico.
A Sad Return Trip to Barataria Bay, Louisiana
Posted by Chris Pincetich, Campaigner and Marine Biologist on August 20th, 2010
Barataria Bay in southern Louisiana on a sunny morning is a beautiful sight. I had visited this huge embayment on July 9th, and was eager to see how conditions had changed in the oil soaked wetlands. I was joined by Gulf Sea Turtle Action Team and Oceanic Defense member Deb Castellena, Sea Shepherd volunteer Brock Cahill, and expert local marine biologists and boat captains. We set out to document the current conditions and check on several “Bio Booms” deployed to demonstrate new technology available to passively capture and remove subsurface oil from sensitive wetlands.
I hoped to see that BP had made significant strides cleaning the marshes, and was sorely disappointed. Once again, we witnessed displaced booms encroaching on endangered seabirds, weathered oil seeping from the marsh grass, and thick oil covering the frontal fringe of marsh islands.
Approaching one particular cove, I was hoping to see that the dark colors were natural muds in poor lighting, but as we grew closer, the bright reflections off the dead, black vegetation confirmed that oil still covered this entire area. The putrid smell of oil was obvious.
While some areas were a frightening black, a dull brownish red covered
the leading edge of vegetation along this entire marsh island. We
gingerly approached the grass, bent down and stuck to itself, and I
reached out to inspect it. Oil coated my fingers.
One very positive experience was witnessing the “Bio Booms” placed near oiled areas. They consist of thousands of “hairs” hanging below an absorbent boom. The hairs creating a huge surface area that bacteria cling to, creating a massive zone from natural filtration and biodegradation process. They had all soaked up quite a bit of oil, and hermit crabs had taken refuge inside the hairs.
Bycatch Blues in Louisiana
Posted by Chris Pincetich, Campaigner and Marine Biologist on August 16th, 2010
With large waves and thunderstorms offshore, I changed plans during my Gulf of Mexico expedition and joined Gregg Hall on a Louisiana shrimp trawl boat for opening day of white shrimp season. Working undercover I was able to experience firsthand the operation of one of the deadliest fisheries to sea turtles in the U.S.
Louisiana shrimpers have long defied the federal government and have refused to use required Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) on their trawl nets. Hundreds of sea turtles have died this year in the Gulf this spring and summer, washed ashore with no signs of oil in them but full of shrimp and sediment, solid evidence of drowning in a trawl net. Before TEDs, it was estimated that Gulf shrimpers killed tens of thousands of sea turtles every year.
On board the small shrimp skimmer boat, we headed out into Barataria Bay, off of Grand Isle. Gregg has been documenting oil, and had a strong suspicion we would be seeing lots of oil along the bottom in the trawl. He had several absorbent booms that he used to sample both the surface waters and bottom for oil.
Seeing the bycatch dumped repeatedly onto the deck and scraped and shoveled over off the gunnel was a heartbreaking and disturbing sight. Hundreds of juvenile fish of all shapes and sizes, juvenile rays, cuttlefish, squid and spawning blue crabs were injured or killed in the nets and on the deck. While quick work by myself and Gregg insured over 90% of the bycatch was quickly and carefully swept overboard alive, may fish and rays has injuries from the harsh environment in the net and on deck.
Our captain cursed the use of TEDs, and had modified his boat and normal fishing grounds to avoid their use and to stay out of federal waters where some inspections occur. Sea turtles are rarely seen in Barataria Bay, but are common offshore outside of the barrier islands. TEDs are designed to save sea turtles, but in the back bays they would keep rays, large crabs, and large catfish out of the deadly nets.
There is really no excuse for such destructive fishing methods. If shrimpers and Louisiana elected officials can not agree to use new technology in their fisheries to save sea turtles and non-target species, these fisheries should be closed.
After a day on board the Louisiana shrimp trawler, I can confidently join our STRP board member and Goldman prize winner Randall Aruaz in calling for an end to all commercial shrimp trawling, which is destroying sea turtle populations and the habitat all life in the neritic zone depends on.
Saving Sea Turtles as a Summer Intern
Posted by Cole Chassy, Summer Intern at the Sea Turtle Restoration Project on August 2nd, 2010
While interning at STRP this summer I acquired a great deal of knowledge concerning local and global issues that are vital to the preservation of sea turtles and endangered marine mammals. The vast array of duties I performed throughout my internship at STRP provided me with an invaluable professional experience that will without a doubt be tremendously useful in the future regardless of the career path I choose to take.
Prior to my internship at STRP I was unaware of the immense amount of issues that affect not only endangered sea turtles populations, but also our environment as a whole at a local, national, and global level. Being a lifelong resident of Northern California’s Bay Area, I had no idea about the drastic effect local fishing customs have had on the endangered Leatherback sea turtles in the Pacific, or the effect plastic bags and plastic bottle caps have had on this population as well. I must admit that prior to joining the staff at STRP this summer I did not concern myself with the conservation of endangered species or with environmental issues to a great extent. However, after spending just a few months at STRP I have become so much more aware and concerned with these issues, and I now know first-hand of the major impact that these issues have on my life as well.
Some of the more significant duties I performed over the course of my internship at STRP include: legal research of various legislative acts created by the United States congress, including the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act; supporting legal action against long-line fishing activity which has an extremely drastic effect on sea turtle populations; creating a list of thousands of established scientists in fields related to marine biology in efforts to attain global scholarly support of STRP’s efforts to protect endangered Leatherback turtles in Costa Rica; and drafting several memorandum dealing with major issues regarding endangered sea turtles to a quite diverse collection of recipients, ranging from the head of Unified Command in charge of the overall BP Gulf oil spill clean-up effort, to Miley Cyrus, who prominently featured Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles in one of her recent films.
The most significant experience of my internship, however, was being at STRP’s headquarters while the plight of endangered Gulf sea turtles, mainly the endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, came to the forefront of global media attention. Being the preeminent authority on sea turtle conservation, STRP was flooded with non-stop media requests from major media outlets across the globe. Listening in on several interviews dealing with the effect the BP Gulf oil spill has had on sea turtles in the Gulf region, then seeing that interview online or printed in a magazine or newspaper not long after was quite a unique experience to have. I even got to be on the local evening news!
Throughout the summer, one of the more crucial roles I had in regards to the BP Gulf oil spill was managing several blogs on respected websites, which provided detailed accounts of my supervisor, Dr. Chris Pincetich. On his initial trip to the Gulf region of the United States he led an endeavor to convey to the those concerned a legitimate account of efforts to save endangered Gulf Sea turtles, the overall BP oil spill clean-up effort, and the effect the spill has had on Gulf communities. On our CNN ireport alone we had over a thousand people view our photos that Chris had taken while flying over the Gulf of Mexico. These photos provided firsthand accounts of the Deepwater Horizon platform, where the spill actually occurred, in addition to a bird’s eye view of the extent that the oil had spread over the Gulf. I also had the duty of drafting a memorandum to Unified Command, designated as the key party involved in the BP Gulf oil spill clean-up effort, outlining certain legislative acts established by the United States Congress that all parties must abide by regarding the protection of local endangered species sea turtle populations.
The overall experience I had at the Sea Turtle Restoration Project widely exceeded my expectations. Each day was different than the day before, and every single one of these days I spent at STRP I learned something new. To anyone who wants to make a positive impact on the world they live in, as well as on their own life, regardless of the career path they choose to take, I sincerely suggest being an intern, or volunteering for a day or weekend at an event, or donating to the Sea Turtle Restoration Project.