Evincing the silver lining in the disaster, FWS issues an emergency permit for sea turtle rehabilitation.
75 Fed. Reg. 47825 / Vol. 75, No. 152 / Monday, August 9, 2010 / Notices
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service
Emergency Exemption; Issuance of Emergency Permit to Rehabilitate Sea Turtles Affected by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Gulf of Mexico
SUMMARY: On April 20, 2010, a massive oil spill occurred as a result of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil spill continues to threaten the Gulf of Mexico environment and its inhabitants, including five sea turtle species. We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have authorized Texas State Aquarium, under an Endangered Species Act (ESA) permit, to aid sea turtles affected by the oil spill.
EXCERPT: Rehabilitation may include the following activities: Examine and document stranded sea turtles; aid with holding/restraining live turtles while others permitted rush to the scene, examine tags, apply tags, collect data/specimens, or attach satellite transmitters; examine for tags and tag live sea turtles; transport live and dead sea turtles to rehabilitation facilities, satellite transmitter attachment sites, and necropsy sites and necropsy dead sea turtles and collect samples; examine gut contents from dead sea turtles; attach satellite transmitters to nesting Kemp's ridley turtles; locate egg chambers and retrieve eggs for protected incubation; provide care for incubating sea turtle eggs; release hatchling sea turtles; examine unhatched eggs and collect tissue/gonad samples; capture juvenile sea turtles in nets and collect associated data; collect blood samples from stranded, nesting, and captured sea turtles; and collect small tissue samples from live stranded, nesting, and captured sea turtles.
Image of an oiled sea turtle from Sea Turtle Restoration Project
KEITHINKING: The impacts of oil on sea turtles have been a tragedy. See Defenders of Wildlife. And the need to protect sea turtles from these types of disastrous oil spills have been understood for years. See NOAA response information. But we should all remember that out of crisis came opportunities for on-the-job training. One of the silver linings in the Deepwater Horizon tragedy is the significant growth in sea turtle awareness and rescue capabilities. Consider, for example, the following:
- hatchling care and nesting relocation skills are increasing, with 51 turtles rescued on August 3 alone.
- fishermen are helping to be part of the sea turtle protection effort.
- Wildlife officials learned to spot and remove sea turtles from burn zones. See Christian Science Monitor.
- Aquaria have improved their ability to rehabilitate sea turtles. See Audubon Nature Institute.
No, it should not have happened, and yes, we need to avoid it ever happening again (but it will....) Still, for the moment, I'm choosing to be an optimist, and to celebrate one of the success stories. For more links on sea turtle rehab efforts, visit the Huffington Post and New York Times.