Archive for May, 2011
May 27, 2011 UPDATE – read to the end to download a new Technical Report released by the National Marine Fisheries Service recommending TEDs in skimmer trawls to save sea turtles!
A legal loophole deadly to sea turtles allows shallow water shrimp vessels known as skimmer trawls to operate without sea turtle escape hatches, known as Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs). TEDS are required by law on all U.S. commercial shrimp otter trawl boats and on foreign fleets that export shrimp to the U.S. Yet, every year, hundreds of dead sea turtles continue to wash up along Gulf beaches, spiking during the annual opening of shrimping season. The Sea Turtle Restoration Project believes that skimmer trawls may be the culprit and should be required to use TEDs along with the deepwater shrimp fleet. Read the full article
ScienceDaily (May 30, 2011) — A new study from University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science scientists Chris Langdon, Remy Okazaki and Nancy Muehllehner and colleagues from the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Max-Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Germany concludes that ocean acidification, along with increased ocean temperatures, will likely severely reduce the diversity and resilience of coral reef ecosystems within this century. Read the full article
ScienceDaily (May 30, 2011) — Nitrogen pollution in our coastal ecosystems, the result of widespread use of synthetic agricultural fertilizers and of human sewage, leads to decreased water transparency, the loss of desirable fish species, and the emergence of toxic phytoplankton species — such as the algae behind the infamous “red tides” that kill fish. Read the full article
Forget about the spurious benefits of eating shark fin soup, a traditional Chinese delicacy that is said to be responsible for the needless destruction of some 73 million sharks a year. In Palau, the first country in the world to proclaim a shark sanctuary, the sharks that frequent the Pacific island country’s reefs generate enormous financial benefits.
A single reef shark can contribute almost U.S.$2 million in its lifetime to the economy of Palau, according to a new study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and the University of Western Australia.
By North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy, wires
Updated Thu May 26, 2011 7:52pm AEST
Greenpeace says data from its radiation monitoring in the ocean off Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear plant shows massive levels of contamination in seaweed and other marine life.
The environmental group is warning that both the environment and people are at long-term risk.
After taking samples of fish, shellfish and seaweed collected in the Pacific Ocean, 20 kilometres off Fukushima, Greenpeace sent them for analysis at independent French and Belgian laboratories. Read the full article
Coral Reef Fact:
The Sea cucumber’s body wall is made of catch collagen. “This can be loosened and tightened at will, and if the animal wants to squeeze through a small gap, it can essentially liquefy its body and pour into the space. To keep itself safe in these crevices and cracks, the sea cucumber hooks up all its collagen fibres to make its body firm again.”
Join Reef Relief today and help protect our amazing marine environment. www. reefrelief.org/act/donate
Miami, FL, May 19 2011:
Keep Paddlin, Inc will screen a preview of its documentary film “Dream Big: Inside All of Us Lives Hope”, chronicling the efforts of South Beach Ocean lifeguard Cynthia Aguilar’s efforts at a solo paddleboard crossing of the Florida Straits.
The record paddle, set for the week of June 13, 2011, will be Cynthia’s second attempt at a Florida Straits crossing. In September, 2010, Cynthia’s first attempt ended short. Strong eddy currents off the shores of Cuba consistently pulled Cynthia and her small paddleboard east and south. After battling these currents for 17 hours straight, she was thrown into a patch of jellyfish where she suffered multiple stings on her arms and legs. Required treatment for the poison proved to be counterproductive to Cynthia continuing and the call was made to end the attempt.
Dream Big follows Cynthia as she attempts to set several Guinness World Records™; longest non-stop prone paddle of 130 miles and first person to cross the Florida Straits solo on a prone paddleboard. Her efforts are in support of bringing awareness of our ocean eco-systems and the work of the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of Southern Florida.
This fundraiser to raise logistical funds in support of Ms. Aguilar’s efforts will be held at the Eco-Discovery Center located at 33 East Quay Road, Key West, Florida. Reception begins at 5:00pm where information about the film and paddle will be available. Each showing will be followed by a question and answer session with Cynthia Aguilar and the film’s producers. Show times are at 5:30(VIP), 6:00 and 6:30pm followed by a post reception where after-party information will be announced.
This fundraiser is sponsored by our friends at Kona Brewing Company, providing free Liquid Aloha. Also attending will be Raw Elements, Miami’s all natural sunscreen, supporting Cynthia and the ocean with their reef safe sunscreen. Dream Big t-shirts, bandana’s and reusable bags will be for sale to support the paddle. Donations in support of the paddle and documentary will be greatly appreciated and are fully tax deductable.
Coral Reef Fact:
“Loggerhead, green, leatherback, hawksbill and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles nest on beaches in the Florida Keys and other parts of Florida, or inhabit Florida and Keys waters. All five species are considered either threatened or endangered.” Each year from mid-April -Oct. “turtles crawl ashore at night to dig their nests and lay eggs. A female turtle typically lays about 100 eggs and covers them with sand before returning to the water, leaving the nest alone. ” Source: http://www.fla-keys.com/turtlecam/
Turtles are one of the most endearing and symbolic of America’s native wildlife. Turtles not only fascinate each generation of children, who find endless wonders under those hard shells, but they also continue to serve as a timeless role model in children’s literature: the slow and steady turtle, whose patient progress always wins out against a fast but feckless competitor.
Yet our connection to turtles hasn’t prevented humans from abusing the creatures. In fact, many land, freshwater, and sea turtles are facing imminent threats to their survival because of human activities. Turtles are substantially affected by habitat loss and the pet trade, not to mention the food and traditional medicine industries. Many turtle species also suffer from the effects of pollution as well as from the destructive effects of industrial fishing operations.
Despite these hardships, May is a busy month for turtles. Many have recently emerged from winter hibernation and are beginning their search for mates and nesting areas. For this reason, May 23 was designated World Turtle Day.
World Turtle Day was initiated in 2000 by the American Tortoise Rescue, a turtle and tortoise rescue organization founded in 1990 in Malibu, California. The group brings attention to turtle conservation issues and highlights ways each of us can help protect these gentle but jeopardized animals. In the spirit of World Turtle Day, we at The HSUS also have suggested actions you can take to honor these fascinating creatures.
The seven species of sea turtles are among the most endangered animals on earth. Their survival is seriously threatened by destructive industrial fishing operations such as longlining and shrimp trawling. Fishing nets and lines pulled through the oceans accidentally snare and kill countless sea turtles each year. Nesting habitat is also disappearing at an alarming rate as beach-front development flourishes. And although many local, national, and international laws protect them from trade, sea turtles continue to be collected for their eggs, meat, and shells.
Despite the many threats, there is hope for sea turtles. You can join the many individuals and groups working to make the world’s oceans a safer place for one of their oldest inhabitants.
Turtle Excluder Devices and Longlining
Steps are also being taken to limit the harmful effect fishing practices have on sea turtles. Many in this industry want to help protect endangered sea turtles, and they work alongside government organizations and protection groups to develop fishing techniques that reduce sea turtle injury and mortality. As a result of this work, the National Marine Fisheries Service, a federal agency within the Department of Commerce, issued regulations in 2003 requiring that fishing operations in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico use larger turtle excluder devices to allow bulkier sea turtles such as the loggerhead and leatherback to escape fishing nets. Larger TEDs are not the perfect solution, though. Some sea turtles die from injuries caused by TED gear failures and from being captured and released numerous times, so alternatives are being developed.
Turtles as Pets
Turtles are the most popular pet reptile. In 2007, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, about 1.1 million American households kept at least one turtle as a pet – about the same as the number with lizards and snakes combined. Data from the American Pet Product Manufacturers Association show an even higher number of households with pet turtles. The price of this pet ownership, at least for the animals, is high: Over-collection of turtles for the pet trade has harmed wild turtle populations in the United States and abroad. Captive breeding doesn’t solve the problem. Thousands of turtles perish during capture and shipping. Of those who survive, thousands more die because they do not receive proper care.
Often people who buy turtles don’t realize how difficult they are to care for, nor do they know that turtles pose a threat to human health because the reptiles carry Salmonella bacteria. The bacteria can cause severe and possibly life-threatening illness, especially in young children. In 2007, a 2-year-old Florida girl died from Salmonella that was traced back to a pet turtle. Because of the health risks, selling small turtles is illegal, but many are sold illegally.
The Turtle Trade
Throughout the world, the number of turtle species that have become critically endangered has increased due to their popularity in the food and traditional medicine trade. Turtles are exported from the United States in vast numbers—35 million turtles were exported just from 2000 to 2002.
The majority were freshwater turtles destined for Southeast Asia to supply the growing food markets. Because many wild turtle populations in Asia have been decimated by over-collection, dealers have begun targeting U.S. turtle populations to meet Asian market demands.
Fortunately, states are responding to this threat to their natural resources. In 2003, North Carolina prohibited the harvest of freshwater turtles. In 2007, Texas prohibited the commercial harvest of turtles from public waters. In 2008, Oklahoma enacted a three-year moratorium on the commercial harvest of turtles from public waters. In 2009, Florida prohibited commercial harvest of freshwater turtles and South Carolina enacted protections for nine native species, prohibiting the removal of more than 10 turtles from the wild at a time and more than 20 in a year.
In addition to conservation concerns, turtles in the food trade are treated with little or no regard as living creatures.
Pollution and Development
Habitat loss is a serious threat to all turtle populations.The gopher tortoise, for instance, is declining throughout its range, particularly in Florida, primarily because of development. In 2007, Florida stopped issuing permits that allowed developers to bury gopher tortoises alive during construction. Instead, developers are working with The Humane Society of the United States and others to relocated these treasured animals. Development along coastlines reduces suitable nesting habitats for sea turtles. Refuse, such as discarded plastic bags and balloons, causes suffocation, strangulation, or blocked digestive tracts in turtles. Pollution, in the form of hazardous chemicals and garbage, further limits suitable habitats for turtles and causes illness and death in many land, freshwater, and sea turtles.
A study conducted by the Canadian Wildlife Services at three sites in the Great Lakes region found deformities in male snapping turtles, believed to be the result of chemical pollution. Young turtles in the region also showed other biological abnormalities including impaired thyroid function.
Sea turtle populations near areas of intense human activity are suffering from the deadly disease Fibropapilloma, which may be caused by chemical pollution. It is believed that nearly half of all green sea turtles off the coast of Hawaii are infected with this disease and will perish from it.
World Turtle Day is an annual opportunity to reflect on the myriad of threats facing turtles and tortoises and what we can do to protect them.