100 Days of Oil and Agony for Gulf Sea Turtles
Posted by Chris Pincetich, Campaigner and Marine Biologist on July 28th, 2010
|Chris Pincetich and Wallace "J" Nichols struggle to smile once back on the ground after witnessing thousands of square miles of sea turtle habitat impacted by the BP oil spill.|
One hundred days have passed since the horrific explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform, a sad anniversary for all sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico. The loss of life has been catastrophic for ocean dwelling organisms. Official tallies are likely only a fraction of the true toll of sea turtles, marine mammals, and sea birds that have perished from oil toxicity, oil fouling, starvation or deadly interactions with the fires, boats, and dispersants that crowd the incident response scene.
I've personally been following the disaster since the beginning, and looking back over the events of the last 3 months a few specific events stand out.
On April 23 I responded to a NOAA scientist inquiring to the sea turtle scientific community with an email jam packed with peer-review oil study references, and on April 28 I emailed this same NOAA representative expressing concerns about the "controlled burns" that started and the risks they imposed to endangered sea turtles.
On June 18 I sent members an action alert to Stop the Boom and Burn of Sea Turtles and submitted the first official proposal to Unified Command requesting that the Sea Turtle Restoration Project team of biologists and toxicologist join forces with the response units to increase sea turtle rescues. The action alert has been our most active this year and sparked a wave of alerts from our partners that generated over 200,000 responses, demanding BP stop burning sea turtles in their operations. Our proposal to Unified Command is still on their desk, as they "have not yet determined how to include" our team in their efforts.
On July 5th I joined an oil expert, a caring activist pilot, and Dr Wallace "J" Nichols on an amazing fly over of the Louisiana wetlands, over the oiled ocean, out to the "ground zero" explosion site, and back. Words can not describe that trip, so watch the video clip I shot as we flew away from the incident scene.
July 9th I stood on a beach that BP cleanup crews had not yet touched. A layer of weathered oil coated the low tide habitat that was as thick as an asphalt street. The marsh grass that secured this barrier island was dead. Oil coated marine debris, and there was a lot of it. In only 20 minutes, I collected dozens and dozens of plastic bottles that had washed up on this remote beach and loaded them on our boat to be disposed of properly.
July 12 I met Jean-Michel Cousteau and Fabian Cousteau and formed a partnership to add their support to our rescue efforts.
July 13 I performed an interview with Denis Bernstein for Flashpoints radio, one of my personal favorite NPR radio segments. He broadcast my discussions on sea turtles, the oil and dispersant toxicity, and work in the Gulf for over 15 minutes!
We are still communicating daily with Unified Command and Gulf partners to increase sea turtle rescue, keeping a close watch for any sea turtle threats in BP's operations, and preparing to advise on the needs of endangered sea turtles for the restoration planning effort that will soon be underway. It's been a long and arduous 100 days, but the Sea Turtle Restoration Project is ready for the next 100 years of work to protect and restore sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico and around the world.
Kimberley Sailing Regatta to Help Save Sea Turtles
Posted by Teri Shore on July 22nd, 2010
A new international sailing regatta that will bring the world's attention to the Kimberley region has just been announced in Australia. This incredibly wild and unspoiled corner of Northwestern Australia is home to flatback sea turtles, humpback whales and giant whale sharks -- a divers delight! Turtle Island Restoration Network is thrilled to help sponsor and promote this innovative and adventurous sailing event to generate global support to protect the Kimberley from imminent exploitaton by Big Oil -- Chevron, Shell, BP. If you are a sailor or simply love the ocean and sea turtles, you'll want to check out this website and spread the word about the Kimberley Sailing Regatta.
Last year I visited the Kimberley and the tight-knit community working together to fight the destruction of these wild and sacred lands. In early June we hosted two activists who came to the San Francisco Bay Area to tell their story. In December, I'll be going back to help count flatback sea turtles and nests at EcoBeach. You can still join me as there is still space on our Eco-Tour with Conservation Volunteers Australia - but time is running out! Read more here.
Rescued Sea Turtles Recovering Well at Audubon Nature Institute Rehab Center
Posted by Chris Pincetich, Campaigner and Marine Biologist on July 12th, 2010
Almost 100 juvenile sea turtles rescued from the BP oil spill are recovering well in the primary sea turtle rehab facility, the Audubon Nature Institute's New Orleans Rehab center. Most are housed in small, black tubs and fed daily by caring workers that take detailed notes on their condition. Medical care is provided to all the oiled and rescued sea turtles, and the staff at Audubon Institute is happy to report that over 95% of the oiled sea turtles brought to them have been treated for exposure and are still alive.
The majority of sea turtles in care are less than 3 years old and Kemp's ridleys. Only one immature hawksbill has been recovered, several larger and immature green sea turtles, and less than a dozen immature loggerheads, like the one above.
The behavior of Kemp's ridley, loggerhead, and hawksbill sea turtles does not allow them to safely share a single container. Only the green sea turtles are docile enough to share space, like these two young green sea turtles above.
Sea Turtle Restoration Project's Chris Pincetich and Dr. Wallace J Nichols joined the Ocean Future's team featuring Jean-Michel and Fabian Cousteau for interviews with Audubon Institute Staff about the rescued sea turtles. Jean-Michel Cousteau was very concerned to learn that the rehab center had much more room to care for oiled sea turtles, but current rescue efforts on boats are not meeting this need.
Habitat Destroyed by Oil in Fragile Louisiana Wetlands
Posted by Chris Pincetich, Campaigner and Marine Biologist on
In Louisiana wetlands, huge flocks of birds are gone, schools of fish have virtually disappeared, and shoreline vegetation is dead and dying. A day collecting evidence of the wetlands destruction with the Gulf Sea Turtle Action Team was revealing and heartbreaking.
The scenes seen here are strong evidence that sea turtle habitat has been destroyed throughout much of their habitat in Gulf waters off Louisiana, which is well known to be a primary foraging areas for several species of endangered sea turtles. We confirmed that oil mats are sinking and smothering what was once endangered species habitat.
Grasses exposed to the oil are now coated brown and black, and areas that have neither been protected by oil booms or part of cleanup efforts are mostly dead by now.
We landed our boat on a stretch of beach not cleaned by BP crews and low tide and were devastated by the impact. Oil mats 4 to 6 inches thick were seen in the lower intertidal areas. Vegetation crucial to holding the entire barrier island in place was dead.
I focused half an hour of effort of sea turtle habitat restoration while a professional film and photography team documented the destruction. Plastic debris has killed countless sea turtles in the open ocean, and removing it from beaches is a simple was we can improve their habitat. This remote Gulf beach was inundated with plastic. Standing on the high tide dunes I could reach a plastic bottle to both my left and right sides without moving. Once I found a derelict cooler, I had even more ability to haul out this plastic debris. Much of it was oiled, and it was properly disposed of at the BP run marina site when we landed at the end of the day.
BP Beach Cleanup Crews Remove Oil and Add New Sand to Grand Isle Beaches
Posted by Chris Pincetich, Campaigner and Marine Biologist on July 9th, 2010
BP cleanup crews are working east of Grand Isle, Louisiana, to remove oil
and oiled sand from south facing beaches. Four outposts of shade tents with workers dotted this beach and crews were actively cleaning an area almost half a mile long. Piles of new sand were ready for crews who typically cover the cleaned area with non-oiled sand as a final step in the process.
Our Sea Turtle Action Team,
consisting of Dr. J Nichols, Dr. Chris Pincetich, local photographer Jerry Moran, and Red Bridge Productions spotted several pods of bottle nose dolphins and over 10 species of birds,
and did not observe any sea turtles. Our local guide was shocked at the
lack of wildlife we encountered in over 100 square miles of surveys throughout the back bays north and east of Grand Isle.
The ocean water is impregnated with dispersed oil, and our team took a
unique video showing the red-brown colors of weathered oil dominating
the water under the surface. To see the underwater video, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybAG7G...
Dolphins Living in Oil Near Grand Isle, Louisiana
Posted by Chris Pincetich, Campaigner and Marine Biologist on July 9th, 2010
Bottle nose dolphins swimming in the back bays near Grand Isle, Louisiana, stir up red-brown sediment from the bottom of
Barataria Bay in this video taken by the Sea Turtle Restoration Project. The suspended sediment is the same color as the weathered oil that has
covered this once thriving ecosystem. Several dolphin pods were observed, as
well as over 10 species of birds. Despite hours on the water in back bays and the Gulf ocean, no evidence of any sea turtles was seen.
Local photographer Jerry Moran has
grown up visiting this area, and says the numbers of birds and fish he
sees now is a small fraction of what is normal. Clearly, this ecosystem has been devastated. Boom surround a few islands but many areas are unprotected. Even with the orange and red booms, the island shores are scattered with oil and discarded cleanup materials. See some amazing
photographs by professional photographer, native Louisiana resident, and Sea Turtle Restoration Project in the Gulf, Jerry Moran, at http://nativeorleanian.com/
Interview at Audubon Nature Institute Aquarium
Posted by Chris Pincetich, Campaigner and Marine Biologist on July 7th, 2010
We met up with Tom McPhee of the World Animal Awareness Society to add to his current film project. J Nichols and I toured them through the aquarium to see the four Kemp's ridley sea turtles that were rescued from the Gulf oil spill and are now on display. Once again, we shared our stories with visitors and docents. These little Kemp's are fun to watch!
Recovered Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles Doing Well in Public Aquarium
Posted by Christopher Pincetich, Ph.D., Sea Turtle Restoration Project on July 6th, 2010
The majority of live sea turtles rescued from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill so far have been juvenile Kemp's rileys. Populations of these endangered sea turtles are growing, and the smaller, immature individuals are more abundant in the Gulf that reproductively mature adults. Four of these small Kemp's ridley sea turtles recovered from the oily Gulf ocean have recuperated and are now holding and on display at a public aquarium in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dr. J Nichols and I visited them today, and they were definitely the star of the show at the aquarium.
We spoke to many visitors and the aquarium volunteer docents about the plight of these endangered sea turtles, the current conditions in the Gulf we witnessed during our recent airplane fly over, and our efforts to protect all Gulf sea turtles from being burned alive by BP cleanup operations.
This little turtle below, LA-15, was swimming around slowly but was very aware of the visitors and my camera. He came back several times for more photos, but my favorite is this nice portrait below. This little sea turtle is a living symbol of how the courage and determination of sea turtle rescue teams can make a difference in the life of an endangered sea turtle.
Sea Turtles Ride the Gulf of Mexico Currents with BP Oil
Posted by Christopher Pincetich, Ph.D., Sea Turtle Restoration Project on July 6th, 2010
Juvenile and dying sea turtles caught up in the BP oil spill are moving with the cycling Gulf of Mexico currents shown here. Oil is likely to arrive in southern Florida in July based on current NOAA predictions and oil is likely to arrive in Texas as well.
The location of the BP oil gushing from the ocean's floor places it in the heart of several current patterns that will spread the oil and dispersants to all shores along the northern edges of the Gulf and outward to the Atlantic Ocean and perhaps into the northbound Gulf Stream, which passes by the entire east coast.
All 5 species of sea turtles are in jeopardy, and endangered Kemp's ridleys are at the greatest risk from this catastrophe. The Sea Turtle Restoration Project lawsuit has stopped BP from burning sea turtles alive for now, but our fights to protect and remove sea turtles from the oil spill continue.
Sea Turtle Search Over Gulf Oil Spill
Posted by Christopher Pincetich, Ph.D., Sea Turtle Restoration Project on July 5th, 2010
An expert team was assembled today for a flyover of the Gulf oil spill: Dr. Wallace “J” Nichols, STRP Board member and acclaimed sea turtle biologist and activist; Bonny Schumaker, pilot for On Wings of Care and experienced Sea Sheppard activist; an agency expert on oil spill chemical physics who is conducting detailed studies; and myself, Sea Turtle Restoration Project marine biologist and toxicologist. We had to pack light for our flight onboard “Bessie”, the 1971 Cessna that has flown successful missions for wildlife conservation on both hemispheres of the globe. Thunderclouds lined the horizon, but we had confidence we could maneuver to safe skies and departed in the morning hours on our flight path to cover much of the Louisiana coast and out to “ground zero” of the spill.
Our goals were to document the sea turtle habitat destruction, spot any wildlife in and around the spill, locate areas of dense oil for agency studies, and share our observations with the world.
For almost an hour we cruised at 80-120 knots in Bessie over bayous, beaches and open ocean seeing only tar balls, small islands of reddish weathered oil, and some large, thin slicks. Our agency expert relayed information on estimated oil thickness and age based on the color and type of reflections the oil produced, and I took notes detailing conditions, wildlife sightings, and GPS coordinates of all interesting observations. We spotted a school of approximately 30 cow-nosed rays swimming at shallow depths. We flew over the Mississippi River Delta and the mouth of the river, seeing oil slicks and failed booms along established oil platforms and boats leaving Venice heading to the open ocean, and the massive convergence zone of fresh water laden with sediment colliding with the oiled sea water.
The entire crew was heartbroken and amazed to see a distinct line stretching to the horizon with blue ocean on one side, gray seas on the other and weathered oil along the convergence. We had been flying over sediment and oil-covered waters the entire morning, looking at oil slicks on top of a dirty, oiled ocean. Further studies are warranted to determine if the distinct blue to gray convergence was only due to oiled waters or if sea floor bathymetry or sediment loads were also contributing. Our agency expert and observations by the team placed us far from obvious sediment convergence seen along the Mississippi. The immensity of the sea turtle habitat destruction is difficult to describe in words. A significant portion of one of the most productive ocean ecosystems is coated in oil, and the foul weather is likely mixing the oil and dispersant emulsions deep into every trophic level of sea life.
Smoke on the horizon marked the location of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the current oil recovery efforts. Over a dozen boats clustered around two floating rigs, one red rig on a square platform and one built into a vessel. Methane flares burned brightly from each rig, sending dramatic plumes of flames into the sky. Support boats sprayed liquids all over the scene, liquids that may have been seawater or dispersants. Bonny allowed us to open the windows to improve our chances at good photographs, and some of our results are stunning. The bad weather cleared temporarily, and to our amazement the ocean around the rigs was still blue. Even at hundreds of feet above the operations, the smell of petroleum inundated the airplane.
Our flight plan took us north to the remote wildlife refuge of the Chandeleur Islands. This island chain had been protected by thin strands of yellow and red oil booms, and most of these booms were now displaced. Hurricane Alex has wreaked havoc on the meager attempts to protect sensitive wildlife areas from the spill. Beaches were stained black and red as we flew high over the islands to ovoid contact with the thousands of sea birds below. Bonny knows this area very well now, having spent over 60 days in the Gulf performing flyovers to monitor the Gulf oil spill.
The final leg of the flight path was changed on the fly (no pun intended!) as real-time weather reports radioed to us allowed us to thread through narrow bands between massive thunderstorm clouds. Bessie bounced and weaved, and rain streaked across the windshield. Landing in high crosswinds was negotiated with skill by Bonny, and we were all extremely satisfied with the day’s observations.
No sea turtles were spotted from the air on water, in convergence zones, or on remote beaches. However, our team now has firsthand knowledge of the immense sea turtle habitat destruction present in the Gulf, which is growing every day. We will continue our efforts to provide transparent reports on Gulf conditions and activities in our effort to improve sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation from oil exposure, and habitat protections for future generations of sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico.
Public Flocks to Oiled Beaches on 4th of July in Alabama
Posted by on July 4th, 2010
Local sea turtle groups are working hard here in Alabama to protect the few sea turtle nests along these white sand beaches from BP beach cleanup crews and the oil washed ashore. Teams go out every night to ensure protocols are followed which forbid lights along nesting beaches, and these team members all have OSHA training to ensure they are working safely in a toxic environment. Some sea turtle nest relocations have begun for Gulf beaches.
Thousands of Gulf residents have descended on oiled beaches to enjoy a break in the stormy weather and are swimming, picnicking, and playing on the oily sands and in the oily waters. On the beaches in Alabama, which have been hit hard by oil for over a month now, the BP crews have mixed oil into the sand. Sand coated tar-balls are mixed in all over, and the sand now has a orange tint where it once was white.
Luckily, sands in the upper dunes where sea turtle nests can be relocated are still pristine. If oil can be contained to the high-tide line and below, there is hope that the nesting habitat for future generations of sea turtles can be protected during this catastrophe.
Dolphins Take Refuge from Oil In Perdito Bay, Alabama
Posted by Christopher Pincetich, Ph.D., Sea Turtle Restoration Project on July 3rd, 2010
Offshore swells of 6 feet and more in the Gulf kept all BP managed boats in safe harbor again, delaying sea turtle rescue efforts another day. Frustrated by the lack of work in Destin, Florida, I traveled west to Alabama where oil has been landing on beaches for weeks.
Perdito Bay is home to several resident pods of bottle nose dolphins, and nobody knows them better than Captain Lori, the "Dolphin Queen." I visited Lori and saw first-hand the smaller, Perdito Bay dolphins were now joined by much larger dolphins that likely resided in the Gulf. Lori has seen a dramatic influx of these Gulf dolphins taking refuge in the back bays.
The back bays we toured had several pods of dolphins, some swimming right alongside oiled booms. Booms have been in place here, almost 5 miles from the Gulf ocean, for several weeks. The yellow plastic is now brown from prolonged contact with small oil slicks that blow in from the massive slicks offshore of Alabama. It was sad to see oil this far back into what appeared to be protected bays, but encouraging to know that some of the ocean's most intelligent mammals had found a safer place to forage and a loving caretaker in Captain Lori, the "Dolphin Queen".
Black and White - Florida's Beaches Under Siege by Dirty Oil
Posted by Christopher Pincetich, Ph.D., Sea Turtle Restoration Project on July 2nd, 2010
Sea turtles large and small are dealing with one of the most horrible substances I have ever touched: weathered oil tar balls from the BP oil spill. This stuff sticks like glue, and is all over the sargassum seaweed that I saw. This is especially alarming because juvenile sea turtles use the saragassum mats on the Gulf as a primary foraging habitat.
Since bad weather continues to delay the sea turtle rescue boats, I drove west from Destin to find the impacts of the BP oil spill on Florida's beautiful white sand beaches. I have heard scattered reports that oil and tar balls had been spotted on Destin beaches, but a brief trip I took yesterday was fruitless. Driving west past Fort Walton beach I was reminded of the many sea turtles nesting along this stretch despite the offshore oil and massive ruts in the sand caused by trucks allowed to drive on the beach.
As I began my walk along Navarre beach, the striking white sands and blue-green waves were dominant, with only scattered bits of sargassum and other seaweed at the high tide line. I picked up some big and small pieces of plastic marine debris that washed ashore, some bits of trash, like I always do at the beach. Then I spotted something unusual - a dead fish on the high tide line, looking very fresh. As I grabbed my camera, I realized my hand had sticky, weathered oil on it. The plastic debris had bits of it all over, brown goo that looked like dirt.
As I walked past the final public boardwalk over the dunes, the high tide line was scattered with much more seaweed, and weathered oil tar balls. The sudden appearance of hundreds of tar balls on the beach must have been due to the limited range of the BP cleanup crews. The fact that the tar and oil is associated with the sargassum means hundreds of thousands of juvenile sea turtles will be eating and touching these tarballs.
I drove home extremely sad knowing that I had only witnessed the tip of a very big, brown iceberg of oil looming offshore of Florida's sea turtle nesting beaches.
BP's Burning of Sea Turtles in Oil Operations Covered by Media Globally
Posted by on July 2nd, 2010
The story of turtles getting burned alive by BP, the lawsuits we filed to stop it, and related news about turtles and the Gulf oil spill have been published in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian in the United Kingdom and in blogs and other media outlets around the world. Here are links to some of the stories:
Deal near to save turtles from Gulf oil burnings Reuters
Sea Turtles Being Burned Alive? Fox 8 TV New Orleans
BP accused of killing endangered sea turtles in cleanup operation, The Guardian, UK
Turtle Deaths Called Result of Shrimping, Not Oil Spill
Sea Turtle Group To BP: Stop Controlled Burns Or We'll Sue, Houston Public Radio
New Orleans Times Picayune, Animal conservation groups say they will sue BP, federal agencies over turtles allegedly caught in oil spill burns
Groups to sue BP, Coast Guard over sea turtles burned alive, Miami Herald
Marin group sues BP over alleged turtle burning
Associated Press, Some 70,000 turtle eggs to be whisked far from oil
Gulf oil spill: Groups say intended suit to stop BP and Coast Guard from burning turtles alive, San Francisco Examiner blog, e
Endangered sea turtles being burned alive in “burn fields” operations, The Money Times,
BP accused of burning alive endangered sea turtles, Digital Journal
Rare sea turtles allegedly torched alive in the Gulf, The Scavenger blog
Sea Turtles Nesting Amid Toxic Turmoil and Gulf Sea Turtle Rescues Delayed by Weather
Posted by Christopher Pincetich, Ph.D., Sea Turtle Restoration Project on July 1st, 2010
Oiled waves are now pounding the Gulf shores, and sea turtles are
caught in the toxic turmoil. The foul weather has suspended all cleanup
and wildlife rescue operations, but the sea turtles are doing their
best to survive and reproduce in the turmoil. Last night, 2 new sea
turtle nests were spotted and protected in the shores of Fort Walton
Beach, Florida. Massive ruts from tire tracks slowed the progress of one female attempting to reach the safety of the dunes, she turned around and nested among the ruts. Her nest was relocated to safety in the protected dunes. Thanks are extended to Sharon Maxwell at the South Walton Turtle Watch for the photos.
Thunderstorms throughout the Gulf in the wake of Hurricane Alex have delayed sea turtle rescue operations for another day. While based in Destin, Florida, I continue to help with local efforts to prepare for oiled beaches and assist with community efforts to prepare booms, and am in touch with the local sea turtle volunteer conservation organization and beach patrols.
The Vessels of Opportunity is a BP-sponsored program that hired boat captains to assist with oil spill operations. I located the tiny office established in Destin by BP, not too hard considering it is surrounded by packed oil booms waiting to be deployed. When a new truck arrived full of cleanup materials, I volunteered with the locals to unload the truck. With all of us working, we made quick work of a large task.
I met with the boat captain, who is a doctor and regularly volunteers to assist with sea turtle recovery on the water near military dredging operations, and we began preparations for our time at sea. The boat is a twin hull design that can cruise through smooth waters at 28 knots, a fast clip that should allow us to reach our target locations quickly. Our safety gear, sea turtle capture equipment, and oil cleanup materials are loaded on the boat and ready to go. We are hoping tomorrow's weather will clear enough to ensure a safe voyage.
Florida Oil Spill Response Growing with Community and Volunteer Efforts
Posted by Christopher Pincetich, Ph.D., Sea Turtle Restoration Project on June 30th, 2010
While waiting for stormy weather to clear and sea turtle boat rescues to resume, I have been meeting with agency officials, marine life care facilities and local community organizers to expand the Sea Turtle Restoration Project's involvement in the oil spill response. The Unified Command cleanup efforts have been very prohibitive of volunteer help from local communities, but slowly this situation is changing for the good of the struggling sea turtles and coastal communities.
I meet today with agency officials in Florida to increase the scope of sea turtle rescue operations in the Gulf, and we expect to be in the water bringing in sea turtles once weather from tropical storm Alex clears up. A new oiled sea turtle rehabilitation center is preparing to be online to partner with our efforts. Gulf World, located in Panama City Beach, has handled over one thousand sea turtles during cold-stun events and is now equipped with new pumps, tanks, and medical equipment to care for the oiled sea turtles our team recovers from the spill. The Gulf World staff are qualified experts, friendly caretakers, and are dedicated to helping sea turtles in the Gulf.
Matter of Trust is a volunteer-based nonprofit based in northern California that has expanded exponentially in Gulf states to respond to the BP oil spill. I visited their warehouse in Fort Walton Beach, volunteered and helped construct oil booms from donated hair and stockings. These booms have excellent oil absorbing properties, far better than the standard booms used now by BP. After working alongside the locals, we discussed ways to channel more volunteer help to increase efforts for beach cleanup and for wildlife rescue and care. The long night ended with a visit from a local Coast Guard officer who is very interested in learning more, helping test the booms, and incorporating more of this excellent community-based project into the official spill response.
Daily BP Oil Spill Sea Turtle Updates
Posted by Teri Shore on June 25th, 2010
The Sea Turtle Restoration Project is headed to the Gulf of Mexico to launch our Gulf Spill Sea Turtle Rescue and Action Team. Dr. Chris Pincetich has been posting daily updates since the spill began and shortly he will be posting news from the front lines of the oil spill. See the Daily Updates. Follow his Gulf reports beginning next week by signing up to our Facebook Page or follow us on Twitter @seaturtles_org
Sea Turtle Deaths in Gulf Oils Spill Trigger Action
Posted by Christopher Pincetich, Ph.D., Sea Turtle Restoration Project on June 23rd, 2010
With at least 535 sea turtles impacted by the deadly duo of the oil spill and commercial fishers taking shortcuts in the confusion that is the Gulf of Mexico, it is clear that action must be taken immediately to improve recovery operations. Our alert last week woke up the nation to the fact that endangered sea turtles were being burned alive in BP's oil corrals to "burn boxes". This week, officials at Unified Command are now promising to place biological observers on burn boats to report sea turtles, and boat operations to recover sea turtles may increase soon.
I was interviewed on this situation yesterday; click here to listen to the interview with the Endangered Species Coalition for their podcast.
Visit our Action Center to add your voice to the thousands who have already called for an end to the "Boom and Burn of Sea Turtles" in the BP-led Gulf cleanup operations.
Investigation of Dead Sea Turtles in the Gulf Continues
Posted by Christopher Pincetich, Ph.D., Sea Turtle Restoration Project on June 15th, 2010
A total of 430 sea turtles have now
been impacted by the deadly duo of commercial fishing and offshore oil
in the Gulf. Eleven new sea turtles have been rescued alive and oiled today. An
additional 8 sea turtles were reported as dead strandings, with the
presence of oil still "pending".
Of all wildlife collected in the
wake of the BP oil spill, the presence or absence of visible oil was
determined on 99.3% of birds, 90.3% of marine mammals, and only 39.7%
of sea turtles. To download the data, click here.
With trained fish
and wildlife professionals handling all the official activities, it
remains a mystery as to why the presence or absence of visible oil on
over 60% of the sea turtles is still not known.
"I have made
written and verbal requests for the results of the sea turtle necropsy
tissue sample analysis, and have not received a response from NOAA or
the wildlife care professionals. The death of each endangered sea
turtle can not be taken lightly. Our public agencies have a duty under
the Endangered Species Act to determine causes of death and take
enforcement action where needed," says Dr. Chris Pincetich of the Sea
Turtle Restoration Project.
The Sea Turtle Restoration Project is
investigating the irregularities of the current cause of death of the
hundreds of sea turtles this year being tallied by the Consolidated
Fish and Wildlife officials. We have led efforts in the Gulf to reduce
sea turtle deaths for over a decade. Intense commercial fishing
pressure continues to be the leading killer of endangered sea turtles,
and we intend to "keep our boot on the neck" of our public officials
until this mystery of hundreds of stranded Gulf sea turtles is solved.
Dr. Mike Ziccardi from the University of
California at Davis, head of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network and
currently stationed in Louisiana overseeing sea turtle rehabilitation,
reported today that 75 sea turtle necropsies have been performed, and
no signs of oil internally or externally were detected on these first
75 dead sea turtles.
Shrimping nets continue to be the lead
suspect in the deaths of hundreds of sea turtles this spring that have
washed ashore without any signs of oil exposure.
Protest Rally Highlights Plight of Sea Turtles in the BP Spill
Posted by Christopher Pincetich, Ph.D., Sea Turtle Restoration Project on June 9th, 2010
The Sea Turtle Restoration Project joined a protest rally on World Oceans Day to share the catastrophic story of endangered sea turtles that are dying by the hundreds in the Gulf of Mexico due to the BP oil spill. Dozens of protesters gained the attention of BP executives as they marched, shouted, and shared their outrage outside of BP's corporate offices in downtown San Francisco, California. STRP's Chris Pincetich led volunteers and interns Angie Rodoni, Cole Chase, and Stephanie Wang to get petitions signed, pass out STRP newsletters, and share the plight of the endangered Kemp's ridleys with all who attended. The event was coordinated with a nation-wide effort by the group Seize BP to protest against BP's corporate blunders, cover-up, and slow response to address the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
In the wake of World Ocean's Day, experts detail BP's cover-up that
millions of gallons of dirty oil could be leaking EACH DAY into the
Gulf of Mexico.
BP's claim that it is capturing 630,000
gallons a day in it's top hat pipe combined with new estimates from the
first high-definition underwater video released by BP yesterday support
a worst-case scenario estimate.
Ira Leifer, a University of California researcher and member of the Obama
Administration's Flow Rate Technical Group said that BP's
leaking Gulf oil well could be leeching BP's estimated worst-case flow of
100,000 barrels a day.
"In the data I've seen, there's nothing inconsistent with BP's worst case scenario," Leifer was quoted as saying.
100,000 barrels X 42 gallons per barrel = 4,200,000 gallons per daySea
turtles throughout the Gulf continue to nest, but in much lower n umbers
than observed at this time last year. The Incident Command released the
following sea turtle statistics today
- 322 total sea turtles verified to date within the “designated spill
- 272 stranded (dead or debilitated)
- 50 of the stranded were found alive
- 3 recovered alive but died in rehab
- 3 turtles released alive
- 25 live turtles in rehabilitation
To date, visible evidence of oil has been documented
externally on 28 live sea turtles and 2 dead sea turtle captured during
directed turtle surveys. Of the 272 stranded, 55 full necropsies have been performed.
To read more on the BP cover-up and criminal investigation: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/ybenjamin/detail??blogid=150&entry_id=65378#ixzz0qOL3e2cE