As you may know, all sea turtles in U.S. waters are on the Endangered Species List as either threatened or endangered. Since January 2010, NOAA has observed an increase in marine turtle deaths in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Sea turtle deaths can occur for a number of reasons, including disease, exposure to biotoxins or pollutants, ingestion of marine debris, vessel collisions, and fishery interactions. The proposed rule would have required turtle excluder devices (TEDs) on all shrimp trawling vessels, including boats that fish in-shore and in shallower waters than those currently required to use TEDs. These in-shore boats, known in the fishing community as skimmer and butterfly trawlers instead have to comply with “tow-time” restrictions, or limits to how long they can keep their nets submerged under water while fishing. Turtles drown when trapped in the nets too long.
NOAA has since withdrawn this proposed rule for multiple reasons, but primarily because the current design of TEDs did not seem to protect turtles effectively.
And it’s working. So far, over 170 million people have taken action for over 500,000 unique causes. The Causes community doesn’t just take action–they start movements by asking their friends and family to join them. Every campaign on Causes is automatically integrated with Facebook’s custom open graph, which means that actions are easily shared via Timeline and newsfeed. The ability for supporters to tweet, email, and post a Facebook status update is a click away on every campaign page.
Ocean Conservancy is running a campaign powered by Causes to turn awareness into action in protecting baby sea turtle nesting grounds along the Gulf of Mexico. The peer-to-peer sharing on Causes makes it easy for our own community to get the word out about our work. Our petition to support a nesting ground restoration project received over 20,000 signatures in fewer than two weeks.
Greetings from the Lone Star State! Amidst the hustle and bustle of last minute Christmas preparations, and visiting with family (and family dogs–there are 4 at my feet as I write!), I feel compelled to take a moment to thank our members and supporters who took time this month to support Ocean Conservancy’s work to ensure that Gulf Restoration moves forward in a way that protects the wildlife, people and places that make the Gulf a national treasure. After exceeding our goal of 30,000 petition signatures to support sea turtle nesting ground restoration, the project has officially been approved for funding.
Restoring the Gulf from not only the oil disaster but also from decades of problems like wetland loss, nutrient pollution and loss of habitat is a huge undertaking, and a complex challenge. In the Gulf Restoration Program, we focus on all of the moving pieces that will hopefully create a coordinated effort for restoration on a scale not often seen. From advocating for the RESTORE Act, to participating in countless public meetings, from testifying in front of Congress, to working with the people who make their living on the water, from advocating for science to support restoration, to pushing for projects that will have a significant impact on the species we love– we do it all, and we do it with all our heart. Even so, it’s easy to get lost in the details, to keep one’s head down and just keep pushing, sometimes not even coming up for air when it’s time to celebrate important victories.
Have you heard that Coast Guard officials recently confirmed an oil slick found in the Gulf of Mexico last week matched oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster? Indeed, while the BP spill may be a distant memory to some, the Gulf still feels the effects today. The Coast Guard has said the oil slick “does not post a threat to the shoreline,” but it will certainly affect the Gulf’s offshore waters, which are just as vital to the region’s overall health.
In my latest Huffington Post piece, I weigh in on the threats this oil continues to pose in the Gulf and discuss the ways Ocean Conservancy continues to work toward marine restoration in this important area. One project helps point baby turtles back to sea:
Thirteen competitors from six countries (USA, Costa Rica, Panama, Nevis, Mexico, Guyana). A race of hundreds or perhaps thousands of miles through the ocean. Crowds of spectators cheering for their favorites. The Tour de Turtles 2012 has begun!
Most of what we know about sea turtles comes from studies on land. Thanks to satellite tracking and the Tour de Turtles, researchers are finding out a lot more about their life at sea. When it comes to sea turtle conservation, that’s a win worthy of a gold medal.