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.