Ambitious plans afoot to save turtles in the Gulf
by Erik Hoffner.
Sea Turtle Conservancy Director David Godfrey took a minute to update me on what is being done to safeguard turtles swimming and nesting along Gulf shores this summer.
Q. David, how true are the reports of sea turtles being burned alive in the Gulf?
A. Yes, sea turtles rounded up by oil skimmers were burned alive by contractors working for BP. There were not enough wildlife monitors out at sea with the skimmers to adequately inspect these large pools of oil before they are set ablaze, and we spoke with colleagues and our attorneys about the possibility of filing an immediate Endangered Species Act takings case against BP seeking an injunction. Almost immediately, we began hearing directly from senior officials with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who were equally upset about this issue. They assured us that wildlife observers would be added to the process and allowed to inspect these pools before they are lit. We have been watching the issue closely and so far it appears that the new observers are eliminating this from happening, but will respond with legal action if we are not convinced that new protocols are being followed.
Q. What’s the plan for all of the hatchlings due to emerge on Gulf beaches soon?
A. Of immediate concern is the fate of hundreds of sea turtle nests that are being deposited right now by nesting loggerhead turtles along the north Gulf coast of Florida. Under normal circumstances, hatchlings from this coast would begin emerging from their nests after incubating for about 60 days and immediately swim out into the Gulf in search of floating mats of sargassum seaweed, where they find shelter and food for the first few years of life. Unfortunately, oil from the spill is accumulating in the same areas where the hatchlings would be heading. Conditions are so bad that there is very little chance any of this year’s hatchlings in the Panhandle would survive.
In response, federal and state officials (with input and assistance from the Sea Turtle Conservancy) have made a bold decision to relocate all of the nests from this part of the Gulf Coast to an incubation facility set up at the Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s east coast. The idea is to release the hatchlings into the Atlantic, where they have a far greater chance of surviving.
About 700 nests are laid by turtles in this region each summer. Considering there are about 100 eggs in each nest, this adds up to an estimated 70,000 eggs that will be need to be carefully excavated, stored in special containers and transported to the east coast. As the hatchlings emerge inside their containers, they will be allowed to crawl down the beach and into the sea at a variety of locations on the east coast.
The operation is being coordinated by staff with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), National Marine Fisheries Service, and Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. They are being assisted by a well-trained network of local sea turtle monitors from the Panhandle, as well as the Sea Turtle Conservancy and other contractors with years of experience working with sea turtles in Florida.
Each nest will be allowed to incubate in place until about the 50-day point, and then they will be carefully excavated and placed in specialized incubation containers. It is particularly encouraging that FedEx has stepped up to provide their expertise in shipping sensitive cargo in order to transport all of the eggs to the incubation site at the Space Center in their climate-controlled trucks. The transfer process will continue for two or more months as all of the nests gradually reach the 50-day mark.
Q. Has such a thing ever been done before?
A. Never. And we don’t know exactly where they will return, but the hope is that by incubating on their natal (west coast) beach for 50 days, they will still imprint to return there.
Q. What can people do? Volunteer?
A. There is very little opportunity for anyone but experienced sea turtle experts and state-permitted turtle monitors already working in Florida to assist with the relocation strategy or the recovery of oil-impacted turtles. The whole operation is coordinated by the Central Command, and looks very much like a military operation. Our organization is permitted in Florida to handle turtles and we have close ties with many of the agency staff coordinating the plan. Unfortunately, we are not able to involve additional volunteers.
We are not receiving money directly from BP and we are hoping to remain involved in the relocation plan without operating under contract to any of the Central Command agencies or BP—we feel it is important to maintain a strong level of independence so we can comment and openly object when we see things that are not being done to properly or for the greater benefit of sea turtles. So donations to STC would certainly be helpful to support this huge effort, and can be sent via our site.
Q. Does the Sea Turtle Conservancy have a plan for mitigating the long-term effects of the BP disaster on turtles?
A. We have formulated a plan to begin mitigating for the impacts of the oil spill on sea turtles. Because the oil disaster is still unfolding, the first phase of the plan is to eliminate as many other causes of sea turtle mortality as possible. Of course, the damage caused by the spill can never be undone, but BP and other entities are looking to contribute immediately to sea turtle conservation in other ways.
Our plan was accepted by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which is handling some of the money being earmarked to begin addressing environmental impacts.
So we are leading a major effort to
identify and fix problem lights all around Florida that have been disorienting
hatchlings. In the past, we could only ask homeowners and businesses to fix
their lights. Now, we will actually design a lighting fix and pay for the
installation. Next, we will conduct a major initiative to expand the capacity
of every sea turtle rehabilitation facility in Florida to care for more turtles
and give them the best veterinary care possible. We will provide for new turtle
storage tanks, state-of-the-art surgical and medical equipment, medicines, and
supplies. There are several other aspects to the plan, including significant
public outreach activities, predator control measures, and even dune restoration
in areas impacted by recent erosion.
Check the Sea Turtle Conservancy blog for more in-depth information and stats on the number of turtles impacted by the oil spill so far.
Jerry Brown kicked off clean energy revolution in California once, aims to do it again
Trivia questions for energy geeks: Which state approved the country’s first energy-efficiency standards for appliances? The first green building codes? The first big wind farms? And who was governor when all those fine things happened?
The answer is California under Gov. Jerry Brown—aka Governor Moonbeam—who just happens to be running for the office again, some 30 years later. Last week, Brown, the Democratic nominee, unveiled a clean-energy plan to put far more solar panels on California’s rooftops, in addition to appointing a renewable energy czar and strengthening those sexy appliance standards.
Fannie and Freddie attack clean-energy plan
Few new ideas brighten the faces of clean-energy advocates as much as Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, the Berkeley-born financing tool that’s spreading quickly throughout the country. The three-year-old model has put rooftop solar panels, high-efficiency furnaces, and other home improvements within reach of thousands of American homeowners, and there’s hope it could reach many more, creating jobs along the way.
Obama Vows To Go Where No Man Has Gone Before: Passing and Signing Climate and Energy Legislation
Given the emotional reserve of a man whose aides once referred to as “no drama Obama,” the president is getting pretty fired up about energy. On Wednesday President Obama concluded an all hands cabinet meeting at the White House by publicly declaring again his resolve to develop a “new energy strategy that the American people desperately want.”
“It is time for us to move to a clean energy future,” the president said, adding that “the entire cabinet here recognizes, with all the other stuff that they’re doing, that if we get energy right, an awful lot of things can happen as a consequence.”
- Home improvement giant invests in energy retrofit startup
- Clean Energy: Not About the Technology
- The Climate Post: U.S. Senate gives a disapproving look
- What Would Reagan Do? Conservative Environmentalists Reclaim Climate Debate
- Microsoft Bing Features Solar Panels
- Obama on the climate bill: “We will get it done”
- Six ways BP’s oil spill is seeping into politics
- Does the Senate climate bill “gut” the Clean Air Act?
- Spotlight on Starbucks
- U.S. doubts global emission targets in climate deal
- The American Power Act and California’s AB 32
- Home Star energy retrofit bill passes House; is backed by broad coalition; rules
- Cisco Takes Charge of Greenpeace's 'Cool IT' Rankings
- Obama Already Has $72B on Tap to Green Buildings, Study Says
- ARPA-E Announces $106M in Futuristic Projects
- Israel Greentech Startups in Palo Alto
- Fjords, Caves and Mines: The New Tools for Building Data Centers
- Sam's Club Installs 17 Micro Turbines
- California Gets Serious About PACE as a Statewide Program
- Germany's Insights on Green Building
Page 7 of 26
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