The Beacon

Blog Tags: Fishing Gear

Dissecting the Cause of Death in the Gulf

A kemp's ridley sea turtle. © Oceana/Cory Wilson

Warning: what follows isn’t exactly light reading.

The New York Times reported yesterday on the complicated task of performing necropsies -- i.e., animal autopsies -- on sea turtles and other creatures that have been found dead in the Gulf of Mexico since the spill started.

It’s not easy to determine the cause of death of these creatures. Of the 1,978 birds, 463 turtles and 59 marine mammals found dead in the Gulf since April 20th, few show visible signs of oil contamination.

And in the case of sea turtles, a more familiar culprit may be at fault: shrimp trawls and other commercial fishing gear that scoop up turtles as bycatch and prevent them from going to the surface to breathe.

Here’s a simplified breakdown of how the veterinary investigators begin to determine the cause of death:


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Ocean Hero Finalists: Carolyn Caggia

carolyn caggia

Carolyn Caggia with NC Rep. Jimmy Love and part of the 72 yard long scroll she created.

This is the eighth in a series of posts about this year’s Ocean Hero finalists.

Today’s featured finalist is 16-year-old Carolyn Caggia, who is devoted to protecting sea turtles from gillnets in her home state of North Carolina.

Gillnet fisheries use hundreds of yards of fishing net that remain in the water for days or longer, ensnaring sea turtles and other species incidentally.

Carolyn was inspired to act after visiting Jean Beasley’s sea turtle hospital in Topsail Island, NC several years ago. She decided to undertake a grass roots advocacy effort to help save sea turtles as her Girl Scout Gold Award project.  


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Kate Walsh Joins Oceana to Save Sea Turtles

Actress Kate Walsh, star of ABC’s “Private Practice,” (and that fantastic Cadillac commercial) has joined Oceana in our campaign to protect sea turtles. Needless to say, we are tickled to have her on board.

Walsh travelled with Oceana scientists to the U.S. Virgin Islands this summer, where she encountered leatherback hatchlings and swam with green sea turtles. (Watch the video below -- she's impressively graceful in the water).

Check out Kate's new website with Oceana, http://oceana.org/turtlesoffthehook, where you can see her new PSA about turtles, photo slideshows and bonus footage, and sign up to join Kate in the fight to get turtles off the hook. Plus, don't forget to check out the interview with Kate in the latest Oceana newsletter.

Kate Walsh Swims With Sea Turtles from Oceana on Vimeo.


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Dolphins, Whales Still Threatened By Fishing

On the heels of President Bush's creation of three vast marine national monuments in the Pacific comes some not-so-great news about the outgoing president's stewardship of the oceans. In a new report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (my personal favorite of the federal agencies for its malfeasance-ferreting-out ways) has found that the National Marine Fisheries Service has failed to protect several marine mammal species, even though it's required by law. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the federal government is required to reduce the number of marine mammals that are incidentally killed by commercial fishing activities. For example, the North Atlantic right whale can be caught in lobster trap lines; pilot whales can be trapped in longline gear used to catch tuna; and dolphins and porpoises can be ensnared in nets set to catch cod and salmon. The GAO found that the National Marine Fisheries Service has been unable to establish plans to protect 14 of the 30 marine mammals required by law due to a lack of funding and insufficient data.


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