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The Race to Relocate the Gulf's Turtles

Hesitant vacationers aren't the only ones showing up at gulf beaches this summer. Loggerhead sea turtles will be finishing their nesting period on the beaches of the Florida coast and then heading out to sea, as they have done long before BP ever drilled an oil well. The turtles have already been adversely affected in the wake of the spill (today's Grist post includes accounts of BP employees setting fire to large pools of oil where sea turtles just happened to be living).

However, ambitious measures are being carried out by the Sea Turtle Conservancy to mitigate these threats. Today Grist features an interview with director David Godfrey discussing the unprecedented measures.


Of immediate concern is the fate of hundreds of sea turtle nests that are being deposited right now by nesting loggerhead turtles along the north Gulf coast of Florida. Under normal circumstances, hatchlings from this coast would begin emerging from their nests after incubating for about 60 days and immediately swim out into the Gulf in search of floating mats of sargassum seaweed, where they find shelter and food for the first few years of life. Unfortunately, oil from the spill is accumulating in the same areas where the hatchlings would be heading. Conditions are so bad that there is very little chance any of this year's hatchlings in the Panhandle would survive.

In response, federal and state officials (with input and assistance from the Sea Turtle Conservancy) have made a bold decision to relocate all of the nests from this part of the Gulf Coast to an incubation facility set up at the Kennedy Space Center on Florida's east coast. The idea is to release the hatchlings into the Atlantic, where they have a far greater chance of surviving.

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As the post goes on to say, excavating the estimated 700,000 eggs can only be carried out by those with experience working with sea turtles, so unfortunately no volunteers can be utilized. Read the full post to find out what might happen to the amphibians after their East Coast transplant.

Photo (cc) Flickr user Crazy Creatures via Grist.

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