Blog Tags: Sea Turtles
Today’s Oil Spill Quote of the Day features Elizabeth Griffin Wilson, one of our very own scientists:
From yesterday’s Guardian:
Some 1,020 sea turtles were caught up in the spill, according to figures (pdf) today – an ominous number for an endangered species. Wildlife officials collected 177 sea turtles last week – more than in the first two months of the spill and a sizeable share of the 1,020 captured since the spill began more than three months ago. Some 517 of that total number were dead and 440 were covered in oil, according to figures maintained the Deepwater Horizon response team.
Imagine a healthy, beautiful ocean. Now remove the sea turtles, one by one.
Not so healthy anymore, is it?
That’s the gist of the report we released today, Why Healthy Oceans Need Sea Turtles: The Importance of Sea Turtles to Marine Ecosystems. The report describes the vital roles sea turtles play in the ecosystem, and how the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is further threatening their ability to fulfill those roles.
As the report outlines, sea turtles provide the following important ecosystem services:
- Maintain healthy seagrass beds through grazing
- Maintain healthy coral reefs by removing sponges when foraging
- Facilitate nutrient cycling by supplying a concentrated source of high-protein nutrients when nesting
- Balance marine food webs by maintaining jellyfish populations
- Provide a food source for fish by carrying around barnacles, algae and other similar organisms
- Increase the rate of nutrient recycling on the ocean floor by breaking up shells while foraging
- Provide habitat for small marine organisms as well as offer an oasis for fish and seabirds in the open ocean
Today’s Fact of the Day is about the beautiful hawksbill sea turtle.
This sea turtle has a particularly breathtaking carapace (or top shell). Unfortunately, as a result, hawksbill sea turtles were poached as the main source of tortoise shell goods for hundreds of years and are now in danger of extinction.
Unlike other sea turtles, when hawksbills are on land they walk using diagonally opposite flippers, rather than moving their front flippers in tandem as they do when they swim.
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:
Time for another FOTD!
Green sea turtles are born only two inches long and will grow to about three feet by adulthood. On average, young green sea turtles grow more than 11 pounds a year by feeding on sea grasses and algae -- yum!
From yesterday's Examiner:
“The spill was tragically timed for sea turtles that are nesting in the Gulf right now,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director for the Center [for Biological Diversity]. “Newly hatched sea turtles are swimming out to sea and finding themselves in a mucky, oily mess. News that BP has blocked efforts to rescue trapped sea turtles before they’re burned alive in controlled burns is unacceptable.”
Sea turtles can become coated in oil or inhale volatile chemicals when they surface to breathe, swallow oil or contaminated prey, and swim through oil or come in contact with it on nesting beaches.
As of yesterday, 32 oiled sea turtles have been found in the Gulf of Mexico and more than 320 sea turtles have been found dead or injured since the spill began April 20.
While some dead and injured sea turtles are found by search crews or wash up on the beach, some never will. Ocean currents often carry them out to sea where they can sink or be eaten by predators.
Our report shows that the ongoing oil spill can have the following impacts on sea turtles:
Check out this video of the actors from “The Office” discussing their summer vacation plans.
At the end Angela Kinsey, who plays the uptight Angela Martin on the show, gives Oceana a shout-out. No idea what she’s talking about? For now, I’ll just say Angela Kinsey + Rachael Harris + sea turtles = awesome. More on that at a later date…
It’s the last day to vote for your favorite finalist to receive this year’s Ocean Hero award!
All of this year’s adult and junior finalists are stellar -- if you checked out any of the profiles I wrote on the blog this month I’m sure you agree. From young shark and sea turtle activists to a sustainable seafood power couple and an ocean trash blogger, all of our finalists deserve plaudits.
We’ll announce the winners on the fast-approaching World Oceans Day, June 8.
This year’s winners (one adult and one junior) will each receive a $200 gift card and Raiatea binoculars from West Marine, a $500 gift card from Nautica, and a trip to the World Oceans Day with Nautica and GQ party in Los Angeles on June 8.
As BP prepares its “top kill” maneuver to stanch the Deepwater Horizon’s leak, oil continues to hit Louisiana’s wetlands and beaches, fouling sensitive habitats and marine life.
Officials reported yesterday that more than 300 sea birds, nearly 200 sea turtles and 19 dolphins have been found dead along the U.S. Gulf Coast since the spill started more than a month ago.
As a result, the images coming out of the gulf are increasingly heartbreaking, like these photos of the spill and its victims from Boston.com.
Oceana pollution campaign director Jackie Savitz was on the Diane Rehm show this morning for a second time since the spill discussing the long-term environmental consequences of the oil spill. Jackie was joined by Douglas Rader from the Environmental Defense Fund, Carys Louise Mitchelmore of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory and William Hogarth from the University of South Florida. Have a listen here.
If you haven’t already, help us reach our goal of 500,000 petition signatures: tell Obama and Congress to stop offshore drilling today, and spread the word.
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- CEO Note: Introducing Lars “Lasse” Gustavsson, Oceana in Europe’s New Senior Vice President and Executive Director Posted Tue, October 21, 2014
- Ocean Roundup: Great Barrier Reef Health “Never Been Worse,” Coral Could Be New Substitute for Bone Grafts, and More Posted Thu, October 23, 2014
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