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Shocker: Baby Turtles Released Into Gulf!

From an outraged Associated Press:

Despite oil, baby turtles being released to Gulf

By Ramit Plushnick-masti, Associated Press Writer Sat Jul 24, 2010

HOUSTON – Federal biologists are releasing thousands of endangered baby sea turtles into the western Gulf of Mexico, betting that by the time the silver dollar-sized swimmers make it to the oil-fouled waters of the eastern Gulf, BP will have cleaned up its goopy mess.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service are proceeding with the annual release of Kemp’s ridley turtle hatchlings off Padre Island National Seashore because Texas has not been significantly impacted by the oil spill. For years, scientists have incubated and hatched the turtles to give the endangered creatures a boost.

The risks of holding turtles in captivity at a critical stage in their life cycles could be worse than the dangers of oil more than 400 miles away, the plan’s supporters say.

Hundreds of days-old hatchlings have been freed on Texas beaches since the June 8 decision. Another large group is expected to be released early next week.

The decision, however, has stirred controversy among some scientists, environmentalists and turtle lovers.

Supporters say there should only be intervention with animals directly in the oil’s path, like loggerhead turtles in Florida. In 1979, after a rig blowout in the Mexican Gulf, authorities airlifted Kemp’s ridleys to oil-free waters.

Critics argue the decision to free vulnerable hatchlings doesn’t adequately account for hurricanes, storms or a seasonal change in current, all of which could bring the oil west and directly into their path. Nesting mothers, they say, are also at risk because many deposit their eggs in northern Mexico or south Texas and head for heavily impacted areas.

"We have raised them in captivity and learned the hard way that there are also a lot of negative potential from that," said Deborah Crouse, a sea turtle biologist in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Endangered Species Recovery Program.

However, Crouse acknowledged the release does present a risk of oil exposure. It took a team of 14 experts days to decide whether to release the Kemp’s ridleys.

"It was a balancing act between the danger of holding them in captivity vs. the damage that could be done to them by the oil," Crouse said. "That’s why it was not an easy decision."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that as of Wednesday, 167 visibly oiled sea turtles of various species had been collected alive. At least 482 have been found dead, but no oiled turtles have been found in Texas.

It’s odd that the article does not mention that, at least so far, there is no evidence that the oil has killed any turtles or any other sea life.

Carole Allen, director of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project’s Gulf office in Houston, is a vocal critic of the hatchlings’ release in Texas. At least some of the babies and nesting mothers should be kept in captivity until the oil is cleaned, she said.

"Don’t just send them out to the Gulf to die cause they’re going to get oiled eventually," Allen said.

Andre Landry, a sea turtle expert at Texas A&M University in Galveston, said baby turtles swim out and attach themselves to algae mats or other floating habitats. It’s possible those habitats are oiled, he said.

In Florida, because of the proximity to the oil, loggerhead turtle nests are being collected and incubated. Hatchlings are being released on the state’s eastern coast, far from the oil.

"That goes in direct opposition to what’s been decided with the Kemp’s ridleys," Landry said

Allowing the Kemp’s ridleys to remain in captivity, however, creates other risks.

Early efforts aimed at recovering the species taught scientists that prolonged captivity can mess with the turtles’ navigation and foraging skills, putting long-term survival in danger, said David Godfrey, executive director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy in Gainesville, Fla

And yet moving the nests from the west coast of Florida to the east coast will not?

This article was posted by Steve on Sunday, July 25th, 2010. Comments are currently closed.

2 Responses to “Shocker: Baby Turtles Released Into Gulf!”

  1. bill says:

    Well you see, it all depends on who is doing the turtle moving.

  2. NoNeoCommies says:

    And, just like that, the story will die like the whistle of the teakettle when the fire is shut off.
    Now we can move on to continuing the destruction of BP.

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