The Beacon

Blog Tags: Sea Turtles

Oceana Joins National Aquarium for Sea Turtle Release

kemp's ridley sea turtle

A rehabilitated Kemp's ridley sea turtle is released back into the wild. © Oceana/Dustin Cranor

Yesterday was an exciting day for 5 rehabilitated Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. Last November, the endangered sea turtles were found stranded on the beaches of Massachusetts after having fallen victim to cold stunning, which is essentially sea turtle hypothermia.

They were immediately transported to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, where they received medical attention at the Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP). After more than six months of rehabilitation, the sea turtles were finally deemed healthy enough to survive on their own.

MARP staff and members of the public gathered on the shore of Maryland’s Point Lookout State Park to bid farewell to the rehabbed turtles. Oceana was also there to help out, and campaign director Beth Lowell personally released Rudolph, one of the sea turtles re-entering the open ocean.


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Bad News, Good News for the Oceans

Do you want the good news or the bad news first? Let’s start with the bad:

In a new report released this week, the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) warns that ocean life is "at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history”.

The preliminary report from IPSO is the result of the first-ever interdisciplinary international workshop examining the combined impact of all of the stressors currently affecting the oceans, including pollution, warming, ocean acidification, overfishing and hypoxia.

It turns out that the confluence of overfishing, pollution and climate change is worse than previously thought, as Oceana’s Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist Mike Hirshfield explains to CBS News in this clip:

OK, now for the good news: Juliet Eilperin reports that despite all the aforementioned threats facing the oceans, some areas still teem with life, such as the eastern Pacific’s California Current.


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Gulf Shrimpers to Blame for Record-High Sea Turtle Deaths

A loggerhead sea turtle hatchling in North Carolina. © Oceana/Cory Wilson

Sea turtles have had a rough year. In 2010, more than 600 sea turtles were found either dead or injured on Gulf of Mexico shores, and 563 have already washed up just halfway into 2011.

This sudden spike in sea turtle mortality is due in part to the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf in April, but Oceana has recently discovered that someone else may be to blame: the Gulf shrimp fishery.

Oceana recently found that the fishery is not currently required to use Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs), which spare most sea turtles from getting caught and drowning in their skimmer trawls used for catching shrimp. This lack of proper regulation, coupled with the fishery’s noncompliance or ignorance of TED requirements for other types of trawls, has led to the enormous number of recent sea turtle deaths.

What you might not know is that under the Endangered Species Act, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) authorizes fisheries to injure or kill a specific number of sea turtles. More than 98 percent of all sea turtle interactions authorized to U.S. fisheries are given to the shrimp fishery.


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Ocean Hero Finalists: Carter and Olivia Ries

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

I’ve spent the last week telling you about our adult Ocean Hero finalists, and now it’s time to spotlight the younger set -- our inspiring junior finalists.

First up are 10-year-old Carter and 8-year-old Olivia Ries, who have been involved in saving the planet for an impressive portion of their young lives. In late 2009 they started their own nonprofit organization “One More Generation” (OMG), whose goal is to raise awareness about endangered species around the world.

In 2010, OMG created the following video:


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Ocean Hero Finalists: Zander Srodes

Zander Srodes with a leatherback sea turtle.

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

The featured finalist today is Zander Srodes, who, at age 11, created “Turtle Talks,” an interactive workshop and activity book that teaches kids about sea turtle conservation.

Ten years later, more than 200,000 of Zander’s “Turtle Talks” books have been printed and sent to six continents, from Cuba to Mozambique, and it has been translated into several languages, including Tamil and Telugu. 

“I hope [Turtle Talks] will have a significant impact of the biodiversity of our planet,” Zander said via e-mail. “Turtle Talks promotes the message to youngsters that they are the generation that needs to become advocates for these charismatic reptiles.”

Recently Zander has expanded his sea turtle conservation efforts through eco-tourism. Last summer he hosted two groups of college students on service trips to Costa Rica, where they worked with local organizations that are preserving leatherback sea turtles.


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Where Are They Now?: Casey Sokolovic

Casey Sokolovic with her specialty: sea turtle cookies.

We are now accepting nominations for our third annual Ocean Heroes Contest! Today we’re catching up with one of our favorites, sea turtle activist Casey Sokolovic.

Casey might look familiar - we can’t get enough of her ever since she was a nominee in the first annual Ocean Heroes contest in 2009. She’s now 13, but her parents say she still isn’t allowed to have a cell phone. Judging by all of her activities, she probably doesn’t have time to chat on the phone anyway…

Last year she had an internship at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center on Topsail Island, NC. She helped with the care of the injured turtles and video blogged her experiences at her website, loveaseaturtle.com.

That’s not all. She’s also busy giving school presentations about sea turtles, and participating at camps with Boys and Girls Clubs in North Carolina. She says she really wants to inspire other kids to help, too.

We are, as ever, inspired by Casey’s dedication to sea turtles. Thanks, Casey!

Nominations end April 27, so don’t delay -- nominate an ocean hero in your life today!


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Rachael Harris at Sea Turtle Symposium

Rachael Harris at Sea Turtle Symposium

Rachael Harris, actress and sea turtle advocate.

Oceanography legend Jacques Cousteau once said “The Sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” This spellbound wonder is certainly true for our fascination with the 7 species of sea turtles that have inhabited the world’s oceans for four million years and, sadly, which are all now threatened or endangered with extinction. These awe-inspiring ocean reptiles were the focus of the 31st Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology & Conservation in San Diego.

Actress and sea turtle advocate Rachael Harris (“The Hangover”) presented at our Friday reception. She shared a special connection she made with a green sea turtle named Esmeralda while touring a sea turtle rehabilitation center in Mexico with Oceana last year.

Harris was captivated by how expressive Esmeralda was despite her flippers being mutilated after becoming entangled in fishing line and being attacked by a dog while on a beach to nest. Harris’ enthusiastic support for sea turtle protections is shared by fellow sea turtle advocate Angela Kinsey (“The Office”). The two will storm the nation’s capitol in early May to educate Congress about why we need to get turtles off the hook and the need for more sea turtle protections throughout our nation’s waters.  


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Studies Begin to Reveal Effects of Gulf Oil Spill

Caesar grunts, damselfish and amberjacks in the Gulf of Mexico. © Oceana/Carlos Suarez

A week from today marks the one year anniversary of the BP oil spill, and the effects of the spill on the gulf’s ecosystems and wildlife are beginning to come into view, though the full effects won’t be understood for years.

This week the New York Times published an overview of the latest findings. The good news is that although miles of marsh are still oiled and tar balls continue to wash up on beaches, the Gulf of Mexico can thank its oil-eating bacteria for digesting some of the crude oil and the methane gas.

Not all the news is so good, however. Here are some of the latest findings about Gulf wildlife:


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Oceana Proposes a Canary Islands MPA

Last week, in a culmination of several years of work, our European colleagues presented a proposal to protect 15% of the marine area around Spain’s Canary Islands. If the proposal is accepted, it would multiply the current protected area by 100.

Here’s the back story: In 2009 the Oceana Ranger, our research catamaran, sailed to the Canaries, which are off the coast of Morocco. Over the course of two months, the crew documented the seamounts and seabeds of the archipelago, and found a dozen species never before seen in the area, and filmed many rare species, including three-foot-tall glass sponges, Venus fly-trap anemones and lollipop sponges. (For more on the Canaries see this piece from our magazine last winter.)

The protected area would harbor many other threatened species in the area, such as sea turtles, deep-sea sharks, seahorses, the giant grouper, blue and right whales and the white gorgonian.


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U.S. Gov’t Fails to Protect Sea Turtles, Again

A loggerhead hatchling in North Carolina. © Oceana/Cory Wilson

While the U.S. government continues to dawdle, loggerhead sea turtles continue to suffer. (Yes, they need your help!)

Yesterday the U.S. government failed to meet its legal deadline for issuing a final rule providing additional protections for loggerhead sea turtles, whose populations have faced severe declines over the last decade.

Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Turtle Island Restoration Network filed legal petitions in 2007 urging the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service to uplist North Pacific and northwest Atlantic loggerheads from “threatened” to “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act.

Then, a year ago, the government proposed to list loggerheads as endangered in response to a court-ordered settlement over prior delays. It has now failed to take timely action by missing the legal deadline to issue a final rule within one year.


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