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Florida Oil Spill Response Growing with Community and Volunteer Efforts

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.