We are thrilled to announce Jean Beasley as the winner of our 2013 Ocean Hero Award. Jean established and runs a sea turtle rehabilitation center that has rescued and released over 300 sea turtles over the last sixteen years. After hundreds of nominations, a dozen inspiring finalists, and over 7,000 votes, Jean was voted the clear winner! Upon hearing of the win, Jean said, “[I was] a bit incredulous. I know that all the people that were nominated were worthy…I also have really strong feelings about the fact that it takes us all – whatever people are passionate about and whatever they’re doing and wherever they are – to help the oceans, and help the planet, and it benefits us all.”
We're thrilled to share some great news with you -- After more than five years of delay, the federal government finally proposed to protect 36 areas of ocean habitat across six states for loggerhead sea turtles, in response to a lawsuit filed by Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Turtle Island Restoration Network. After the government failed to respond to petitions to strengthen protections for loggerhead populations from as far back as 2007, we joined with these two other conservation groups to bring the lawsuit. The new proposal by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to protect the waters off of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi, comes as a direct result of this lawsuit!
An environmentalist fighting for endangered sea turtles in Costa Rica has been found dead, suspected killed by sea turtle poachers. Jairo Mora Sandoval, a noted Costa Rican environmentalist, was a biology student who worked for the state-sponsored Paradero Eco-Tour, an animal rescue group and turtle sanctuary. Mora Sandoval also worked as a volunteer with the nonprofit environmental group Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST), which works to protect sea turtles and their eggs across Central America. Mora Sandoval worked particularly to protect leatherback turtle nests from poachers and smugglers in Moin beach in Limon province. He was reported found badly beaten and shot in the head, face down with his hands tied on Moin beach, which lies 105 miles east of Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose. Sandoval was 26.
Happy World Turtle Day! While World Turtle Day celebrates turtles that roam both the land and the sea, as well as tortoises, we at Oceana would especially like to recognize the magnificent species of sea turtles that roam throughout the world’s oceans. The seven species classified as sea turtles around the world are truly incredible: most undergo incredible long migrations – some as far as 1,400 miles –between their feeding grounds and the beaches where they nest. Some loggerhead sea turtles nest in Japan and migrate to Baja del Sur, Mexico, to forage before swimming across the Pacific Ocean again to return home! Amazingly, female sea turtles even return to the exact beach where they hatched as babies to nest and lay their eggs.
Over the past week, the New England Aquarium pulled off the dramatic rescue, rehabilitation and release of a 655-pound, 7-foot leatherback sea turtle which had stranded on Cape Cod (as seen in the video above). The prehistoric-looking reptile was found suffering from dehydration and shock with a significant portion of its left-front flipper missing, an injury the Aquarium said was consistent with entanglement in fishing gear, a sadly common occurrence with these severely threatened animals.
Leatherbacks are long-distance swimmers, using their giant paddle-like flippers to propel them over vast distances. This turtle from the Western Atlantic population travels all the way from the white sandy beaches of the Caribbean to the jellyfish-rich waters of New England each year, and may even swim as far north as Newfoundland. After a weekend being nursed back to health by aquarium staff, this beleaguered leatherback, which veterinarians estimated to be around 25 to 30 years old, was released off of Cape Cod on Sunday.
If the turtle survives, it will be a cheerful chapter in an increasingly desperate story about a species that has survived for a hundred million years but faces extinction in the coming decades. As many as 2,300 leatherbacks may have died at the hands of commercial fishing activities each year throughout the 1990s. Aside from entanglement in fishing gear, many turtles also face threats from poaching and countless die from ingesting plastic. Leatherbacks, whose throats are lined with backward-pointing spines to prevent swallowed jellyfish from escaping, are especially vulnerable to choking on plastic bags, which they mistake for their favorite prey.
But there is hope for the leatherback sea turtle. In 2007, Oceana petitioned the federal government to designate critical habitat for off the U.S. West Coast, where Pacific populations have plummeted by as much as 80% in recent decades. In response, earlier this year, The National Marine Fisheries Service finalized protection of almost 42,000 square miles of protected ocean habitat off the shores of Washington, Oregon and California for the endangered turtle. Turtles arrive in these areas each year after swimming as far as 6,000 miles across the open ocean from nests in Indonesia. This is the first permanent safe haven designated for leatherbacks in U.S. waters. The National Marine Fisheries Service has yet to designate similar critical habitat for loggerhead turtles in the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans even though they are required by law to do so.
Help Oceana continue to fight for this incredible animal, the largest turtle and one of the largest living reptiles on Earth.
World Oceans Day was this past Friday, and as we mentioned in our last post, Oceana headed up to the National Aquarium in Baltimore to take part in their special celebration of the seas.
Divers enter the aquariums exhibits every day to feed the animals and clean the tanks, but on Friday there was a very special dive. National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli joined Oceana’s very first Ocean Hero, John Halas, for excursions into the Atlantic coral reef and Wings on the Water exhibits.
The Atlantic coral reef exhibit was John Halas’ first aquarium dive, but far from his first experience with that ecosystem. He earned the Ocean Hero award in 2009 for his more than 30 years of working to protect coral reef systems in Florida. He retired earlier this year, but has been busy traveling to places like Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago to help install environmentally friendly buouy systems.
In Wings on the Water, John Halas got to meet Calypso, the friendly three-flippered sea turtle that lives in the Aquarium. You can check out video from both dives and interviews with John Racanelli and John Halas over at the Baltimore Sun.
Do you know someone who does great things for the oceans like John? Nominations for our 2012 Ocean Heroes Award are open now and we’re searching for people of all ages and backgrounds who are working hard to protect the world’s oceans. Don’t forget to get your nominations in by June 20th!
Many thanks to the National Aquarium for hosting us and doing such great work to protect the world’s oceans.
Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, the smallest species of sea turtle, participate in one of the most intriguing nesting rituals, called arribadas, meaning “arrivals” in Spanish. During an arribada, huge numbers of female Kemp’s ridleys waddle up beaches simultaneously to lay their eggs.
These already threatened sea turtles are facing further obstacles from the Gulf oil spill. If you haven’t already done so, please sign the petition to stop offshore drilling to help protect these turtles and other crucial wildlife in the future.