Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–September 9, 2010. Wildlife scientists from the Deepwater Horizon/BP Oil Spill Unified Command are finding fewer sea turtles offshore that require rehabilitation, and are now turning their focus to releasing rehabilitated turtles, continuing near shore stranding and salvage network efforts and to learning how these populations of endangered and threatened species have been affected by the oil spill.
“The offshore surface convergence habitats used by these young, oceanic-stage sea turtles has improved considerably,” said NOAA Fisheries National Sea Turtle Coordinator Barbara Schroeder. “We haven’t discovered any turtles that require veterinary care and rehabilitation since early August, so we are implementing the next phase of our turtle response activities while continuing the efforts of the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network.”
Since the explosion of the BP/Deepwater Horizon in April 2010, effort to assess, rescue and rehabilitate sea turtles has been a multifaceted mission. Multiple agencies including NOAA, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and non-profit partners from Riverhead Foundation and In-Water Research Group have been conducting directed search efforts to recover turtles from these offshore convergence habitats significantly affected by surface oil.
National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen and NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco joined state, federal and partner biologists to release the first group of rehabilitated sea turtles back into the Gulf of Mexico near Cedar Key, Fla. on August 18, 2010. A second release took place on August 31, 2010 in the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge in Naples, Fla.
As of August 30, 2010, a total of 1,086 sea turtles have been collected during directed offshore searches and onshore, as strandings, from the Texas/Louisiana border to Apalachicola, Fla. Additionally, scientists released more than 14,000 hatchling turtles from nests translocated from the northern Gulf of Mexico to the east coast of Florida.
The next phase of the response will include conducting follow-up surveys of sea turtles found in offshore convergence habitats. Convergence areas occur where ocean currents meet and Sargassum, a marine algae, is also found. Young sea turtles inhabit these Sargassum convergence areas, where they feed on a variety of the animals that live with them in the Sargassum. Follow-up surveys will begin in approximately two or three weeks and will be followed by long-term monitoring under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment phase.