Sea turtles have a strong sense of place—when it’s time to nest, they return to the same beach where they hatched decades before. Many residents of the Gulf Coast share that same sense of place (my own family has lived in Louisiana for more than ten generations!)
That’s why sea turtles are a great mascot for the Gulf Coast. It’s also why Ocean Conservancy’s new video outlining a vision for a healthy Gulf is told from the perspective of a loggerhead sea turtle. In honor of the star of our video, here are five things that sea turtles need to survive and thrive.
I wasn’t really awake until our all-terrain vehicle bumped its way to the beaches of the Alabama Gulf coast. I held on tight in the dark and wondered whether this adventure had been such a good idea after all.
Then a pop of orange and red burst across the Gulf of Mexico. All that had been asleep was now vivid and busy. Sea gulls and terns swooped above the waves scanning for breakfast. A pod of dolphins broke the surface offshore. Salty fishermen appeared as the mist lifted, persistent, patient. I remember being on the beach early each morning during the BP oil disaster. Even through all the chaos the mornings were always magical as the sun rose over the Gulf. Six years later it is reassuring to see so much is well, but we know that there is still work ahead to restore this environment to its natural state. As I took in all these sights, I reminded myself: I’m here to do a job.
The leatherback sea turtle has spent over 100 million years living beneath the ocean’s waves. It is the longest surviving and one of the largest reptiles on earth. With a heritage that goes back to the dinosaur era, the leatherback sea turtle’s impressive list of accomplishments is virtually unmatched.
Leatherback sea turtles:
Weigh in between 500 and 2,000 pounds
Can reach lengths from 4 to 8 feet long
Live up to 100 years
Dive to extreme depths, often deeper than 4,000 feet
Swim great distances, such as traveling over 7,000 miles
Though your first instinct may be to try and free a marine mammal or sea turtle, entanglement experts strongly urge you to resist this understandably natural impulse. Credit: Fort Meyers Beach Government
This is a follow-up to my original post about helping entangled animals. Readers requested more information about why you shouldn’t try to disentangle marine mammals, as well as more information about helping crustaceans and other smaller animals.
Why shouldn’t I try to help an entangled mammal or sea turtle?
Though your first instinct may be to try and free a marine mammal or sea turtle, entanglement experts strongly urge you to resist this understandably natural impulse because a person without training can seriously hurt both himself and the animal. For example, approaching an entangled seal might scare it back into the water, where it might end up drowning. Also, even if you successfully remove debris from, say, a dolphin, it could have an infection resulting from wounds and may require professional medical attention. In this case, prematurely releasing the animal back into the ocean will endanger its life. Also, many of these animals are strong, heavy, and unpredictable, which is why calling a stranding center nearest you is the best way you can help an animal.
Almost overnight, an annual spending bill that should be a routine affair has become a smorgasbord of rollbacks of ocean protections. The House of Representatives is currently voting on an appropriations bill for Commerce, Justice and Science. Going into debate, President Obama was already concerned that funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wasn’t going to be high enough to allow the agency to fulfill its vital mission, but on the floor of the House, Representatives aren’t satisfied with taking the ocean’s lunch money and are going for some more serious bullying.
First and foremost is the blocking of any and all attempts to better coordinate how the government both uses and protects the ocean. Congressman Flores of Texas introduced an amendment that blocks implementation of the National Ocean Policy which at its heart simply encourages better coordination for all the things we do in the ocean. Blocking it could devastate services many businesses and communities rely on. Congressman Markey said that opposing the National Ocean Policy is like opposing air traffic control.