Froomkin: Plight of the Sea Turtle

(11AM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

Go read:  (warning, also has picture slideshow, sad, graphic)…

Gulf Oil Spill: The Plight of the Sea Turtle  by Dan Froomkin at HuffPo 7/2/2010

In the case of the most endangered species, the Kemp’s ridley turtle, hatchlings leaving their nests in Mexico this season are swimming right into the heart of the spill area, where their instinct to seek shelter and prey among floating vegetation is betraying them by leading them straight to thick clots of oil and oil-soaked seaweed.

There, instead of finding security and food, they are getting poisoned, trapped and asphyxiated.

And if that weren’t tragic enough, it turns out that shrimp boats hired by BP to corral floating oil with booms and set it on fire have been burning hundreds if not thousands of the young turtles alive.

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Help.  photo NOAA , of oiled Ridley’s Sea Turtle

The sea turtles live as long as human beings, but they have been here on the earth since the time of the dinosaurs.  There is no greater illustration as to the destructive habits of humans than to point out that for a few thousand dollars in campaign donations apiece, enough politicians can be bought off to wipe them off the face of the planet, without a qualm.  All of the sea turtles that live in the Gulf of Mexico were already threatened or classified as “endangered” before the Deepwater Horizon oil well blew up on April 20.   It was thought that giving into more domestic offshore oil drilling was a way to get certain so called “conservative” politicians to in turn vote for a comprehensive energy bill.  And in the loveliest of ironies, of course now the Senate Republicans are saying they are not interested (see the usual Sen. Lindsey Graham routine)  and the Senate Democrats are asking what they can take out of the bill to get something through, so this isn’t going to be much of a climate change bill at all, let alone an energy conservation one by the time they are done mucking with it.  (the House passed one, which languishes.)

Sarah L. Milton, a sea-turtle physiologist at Florida Atlantic University, and co-author of a 2003 NOAA report on oil toxicity and its impacts on sea turtles, told the Huffington Post it couldn’t have happened at a worse time.

“The adults, both males and females, will be just offshore for breeding,” she explained. “Oil on the beaches will affect females going ashore to nest. Studies have shown that oil on the eggs leads to reduced nest success and increased deformities. Hatchlings that emerge will have to cross the oiled beaches to get to the water, and then swim through what is out there.

“Proportionately, the oil is likely to have a much greater effect on the hatchlings, just due to their smaller size — swallowing a tar ball will do far worse damage to a tiny gut than a large one.”

Adults are far from immune, however. At all ages, for instance, turtles are indiscriminate eaters, and they inhale deeply before diving for food, two behaviors that increase their risk of fatal exposure. Many of them right now are foraging for food along the Northern Gulf coast, where the oil is currently concentrated.

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Gulf of Mexico June 25, 2010, BP oil spill day 66,  a few days before the winds of Hurricane Alex pushed all this into the marshes. How is anything supposed to grow up there in this oil gunk ?  photo NASA

The scientists and others who work to save these turtles from extinction are calling this “a tremendous setback, unbelievable.”  From what they are seeing, not only is the oil extremely caustic to the turtle’s skin, and killing everything in the food chain that the turtles eat,  but the hungry, disoriented turtles are so desperate for food, they are showing up dead with bait hooks in their mouths.  Most of the dying turtles will vanish into the oil covered water’s now toxic depths, and never be found.

The Federal government suspended oil burns on the surface of the Gulf during Hurricane Alex, and is supposedly going to implement a plan to check skimmed oil gathered for burns for turtles before igniting the next round.  They are also planning to Fed Ex the turtle’s eggs to the Atlantic coast of Florida in a last ditch effort to have some of this year’s hatchlings survive.

While we may feel helpless now, the best thing to do is to continue to keep up public pressure on the government to stop the leak, save as many as we can, (including giving the humans respirators )  and to this useless Congress (which just went on a 2 week vacation for election fundraising during the Independence Holiday, of course )  to quit trying to destroy the entire planet ecosystem.

It is time to declare our independence from this idea we must be passive in the face of pure evil, and that we want and need alternative energy now-  and I don’t mean just having the Republicans and the enabling Pandercrats give a wad of money to Homeland Security again.


edit to add dropped sentence and photo


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  1. ….. hatched in a climate controlled warehouse and not on a beach, then released into the Atlantic,  potentially disrupting the turtle’s instincts to return to the beaches that they were hatched out of,  to lay their eggs when they reproduce.

    They are marking nests in Florida right now, and may instead intercept those hatchlings there and move them someplace else.

    They are going to run out of “someplace else” if they don’t get this oil well plugged.  

  2. for the distinction of being the last to die?

    UCLA anthropologist Jared Diamond wrote about this phenomenon in his eye-opening books, “Guns, Germs and Steel” and the sequel, “Collapse.”  

    What he describes in these books are the disappearance of various civilizations, sometimes caused by their own destruction of the environment that sustained them, only these were then confined to relatively small areas of the world.  Perhaps we are witnessing the re-enactment of this scenario on a grand scale.

    Diamond points out that on Easter Island, for example, someone had to be present when the last tree was cut down.  And, presumably, whoever was the strongest and wealthiest “enjoyed” the dubious distinction of being the last to die.  

    • RUKind on July 3, 2010 at 22:38

    About as much as they care about “the little people”.

    In the end, they’ll get fined $0.01 on the dollar and do no time – not even community service.

  3. A lawsuit was filed on Wed. stating that BP is in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

    The Animal Welfare Institute filed the complaint along with the Center for Biological Diversity, the Turtle Island Restoration Network and the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

    The groups are asking the court to block the alleged killings.

    “While cleaning up the catastrophic oil spill is critically important, so too is doing it in a way which doesn’t destroy wildlife in a flagrantly unlawful manner,” said Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute. “We hope that our legal efforts will serve to protect the endangered sea turtles whose very existence hangs in the balance.”

    The lawsuit alleges BP is violating the Endangered Species Act, and that the Coast Guard is violating the Clean Water Act by directing the oil containment actions that kill the animals.

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