The Beacon

Blog Tags: Sea Turtles

Victory! Pacific Leatherbacks Gain Protected Habitat

leatherback sea turtle

This leatherback will now have a safe haven in the Pacific. [Photo credit: NOAA]

As of today, the ocean’s largest sea turtle now has 41,914 square miles of Pacific Ocean it can call its own.

Oceana has been working for five years to protect habitat critical to the survival and recovery of the endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle, and it paid off. Thanks to a decision by the National Marine Fisheries Service, these magnificent reptiles will now be safeguarded off the U.S. West Coast.

Leatherback sea turtles migrate from Papua, Indonesia to the U.S. West Coast every summer and fall to feed on jellyfish — a 12,000-mile round-trip journey that is the longest known migration of any living marine reptile.

Sadly, these navigators encounter a gauntlet of threats as they make their journey across the Pacific such as poaching; ingestion of plastic bags which they mistake for their favorite food, jellyfish; and entanglement and drowning in longline and gillnet fishing gear.

Due to these threats Pacific leatherbacks have declined more than 95 percent since the 1980s and as few as 2,300 adult female western Pacific leatherbacks remain. There have already been localized extinctions of leatherback sea turtles in India and the Sri Lanka and Malaysian populations have nearly disappeared. 

Leatherbacks from Papua, Indonesia and those that feed off the U.S. West Coast, are one of the turtle’s last strongholds in the Pacific Ocean. It is heartbreaking to think that a species that has been swimming the world’s oceans for more than 100 million years could indeed be wiped out by human actions.


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Oceana Sues on Behalf of Loggerheads

A loggerhead sea turtle hatchling. © Oceana/Cory Wilson

Fishing gear should be killing fewer sea turtles, not more – and today we filed a complaint with the government saying just that.

Oceana’s complaint is in response to the U.S. government’s decision in October 2010 to allow eight East Coast fisheries to harm 14 times more threatened loggerhead sea turtles – raising the limit from 42 to 610.

Oceana is disputing the U.S. government’s decision to allow these fisheries to injure and kill more loggerhead sea turtles without adequately assessing the aggregate impacts of the fisheries on this species. The fisheries harm leatherback, Kemp’s ridley, and green sea turtles as well, and those species also would benefit from proper assessments of the fisheries’ impacts.  

Oceana’s complaint addresses eight federal fisheries, including those for monkfish and for summer flounder, scup and black sea bass, which are responsible for the highest levels of sea turtle bycatch in the region.

Oceana is calling on the U.S. to implement simple solutions to protect and restore sea turtle populations in the Atlantic, including turtle escape hatches in trawls, adopting adequate monitoring of fisheries that catch sea turtles, capping the allowable catch of sea turtles and where necessary, closing areas for fishing when and where sea turtles are present.


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Cuba’s Gardens of the Queen on '60 Minutes'

On Sunday "60 Minutes" aired a great piece by Anderson Cooper on one of the most pristine coral reefs in the world, the Gardens of the Queen (or Jardines de la Reina) in Cuba.

Diving in, Cooper is not disappointed – he is surrounded by colorful corals, large sharks and a 200-lb critically endangered goliath grouper.

Oceana’s research vessel, the Ranger, sailed to the Gardens of the Queen in 2008, and documented a wide variety of marine life including sharks and sea turtles.

Check it out:


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Oceana’s Fall Mag: Sea Turtles, Diane Lane and More

oceana fall magazine

The latest issue of Oceana magazine is now available, and it’s pretty juicy, we’re not gonna lie. In addition to our latest victories and events, here are some of the highlights:

  • Q&A with Diane Lane:  The actress talks about her love for the oceans – and the smell of the East River.

Check it out and let us know what you think!


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Gulf Sea Turtles Still Not Safe

loggerhead sea turtle

Loggerhead sea turtle. © Oceana/Carlos Suarez

Over the past few months we’ve been reporting how sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico have been drowning in shrimp nets in appalling numbers.

Well, we have an update today – and the news is mixed. 

In response to the revelation this summer that hundreds of sea turtles were dying, the government has stepped up its enforcement effort. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), between mid-April, the start of shrimping season, and late October, NOAA’s enforcement officers inspected more than 444 vessels to see if they were equipped with turtle escape hatches (also known as turtle excluder devices, or TEDs).

The verdict? 371 of the boats had TEDs in compliance with the law – leaving 73 of them either without TEDs or with the hatches tied shut or improperly installed.

While we’re happy to hear that NMFS is keeping up with TED enforcement efforts, these new numbers mean that only 83% of the boats are following the rules in place for the Gulf shrimp fishery to protect sea turtles from extinction. And that is simply not good enough.

Learn more about Oceana’s sea turtle campaign and stay tuned!


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Thursday Trivia: Loggerhead Sea Turtle

loggerhead sea turtle

A loggerhead sea turtle hatchling. © Oceana/Cory Wilson

Today’s trivia post is about an animal we talk about a lot: the loggerhead sea turtle.

Loggerheads are named for their broad heads and strong jaws, which they use to force open even large hard shellfish like conchs and giant clams. Loggerheads are found throughout tropical and warm temperate waters, and are the most common sea turtle in the Mediterranean. Loggerheads have a redder hue than most sea turtles, and they are often coated in barnacles and algae.

Because they drink salty sea water, they have developed glands near their eyes that can get rid of this salt, which makes females onshore to nest look like they’re crying. Scientists theorize that adult loggerheads use the Earth’s magnetism to navigate – how cool is that?

Loggerheads, which are considered endangered, are frequently caught accidentally by the fishing industry; other threats include beach erosion and development, pesticides, and oil spills. Oceana’s sea turtle campaign focuses on preventing sea turtle bycatch, protecting habitat, and promoting legislation that keeps turtles safe.

You can learn more about loggerhead sea turtles from Oceana’s marine wildlife encyclopedia.


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Help Sea Turtles for Kate Walsh's Birthday!

kate walsh and sea turtle

It’s our favorite sea turtle lover’s birthday today: Kate Walsh!

In lieu of gifts, her fans, also known as Walshies, have been sending donations to – you guessed it – Oceana. So far they’ve raised $400, and the deadline is midnight tonight. So there’s still time if you want to show Kate and sea turtles some love.

Per Kate’s blog: “All it takes is a dollar and a PayPal account. Just click on this link, hit the “Chipin” button, make your donation, and leave a personalised message for Kate! Yup – it’s that easy!”

A huge thanks to everyone who has donated, and happy birthday, Kate!


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Thursday Trivia: Hawksbill Sea Turtle

hawksbill sea turtle

The adult hawksbill sea turtle lives in shallow warm water in coral reefs and mangrove areas around the globe.

This type of turtle is named for its beak-shaped mouth, which it uses to pry food out of nooks in a reef (tweet us their favorite food and you could win a prize!)—they also have two claws on each front flipper.

Like other sea turtles, hawksbills lay their eggs on sandy beaches, cover the clutch, and then head back to the ocean. When the eggs hatch, baby hawksbills make their way to the ocean. They can’t dive as well as other types of turtles, though, so they typically eat seaweed closer to the surface as they grow up. Less than one in 1000 hawksbill eggs will survive to adulthood.

Hawksbill sea turtles suffer the consequences of beaches that are no longer safe for nesting, unsafe fishing equipment, and struggling reefs, but they are also hunted by humans, particularly for their shells, which are the chief source of tortoiseshell. International law prohibits trading hawksbill shells.

Oceana’s sea turtle campaign focuses on preventing sea turtle bycatch, protecting habitat, and promoting legislation that keeps turtles safe. You can learn more about hawksbill sea turtles from Oceana’s marine wildlife encyclopedia.


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Lick a Stamp, Save a Sea Turtle

tiger stamp

The new Vanishing Species stamp.

For those of you out there who still send snail mail – and I know there are some of you – we have some fun news. The U.S. Postal Service has issued a special “Save Vanishing Species” stamp to benefit endangered species including elephants, rhinoceros, tigers, great apes, and – you guessed it -- sea turtles.

While we would have picked the sea turtle to be the face on the stamp, there are as few as 3,200 Amur tigers left in the wild, so the big cat was chosen, and we have to admit it turned out beautifully.

Each stamp is 55 cents, 11 cents above the cost of a first class stamp. Those extra cents will benefit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s five Multinational Species Conservation Funds, including the Marine Turtle Conservation Act (MTCA). 

Only the fourth of its kind ever created by the Postal Service, this stamp is now available in post offices nationwide and will remain on sale for at least two years.

The MTCA is funded by annual U.S. Congressional appropriations.  As U.S. lawmakers focus on spending cuts in 2011 and the years to come, the sales of the wildlife stamp are an important source of funding for these animals. If all 100 million stamps are sold over the next two years, it will net about $10 million for these vanishing species.

And if it’s a success, the program could be extended. Since its inception, the Breast Cancer Research stamp has raised more than $80 million.

So go ahead, send your next letter with a sea turtle in mind – get your own set of these beautiful new stamps!


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Kate Walsh to Fans: Give to Oceana

Actress and sea turtle lover Kate Walsh posted the following video blog to her fans yesterday, urging them to give to her favorite charities - including Oceana! - instead of sending her gifts:

Thanks for the shout-out, Kate! And for all you Kate and/or sea turtle fans, you can also take action to help keep sea turtles off the hook.


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