24 June 2009

100 people and $50,000!

SEE Turtles recently reached two major milestones. One hundred people have now gone to visit turtle conservation sites through tours and volunteer programs. Our project has generated more than $50,000 for local conservation efforts and turtle communities through donations, fees, grants, and spending on tours.

This is just the beginning. Our new volunteer matching service has been extremely popular, with more than 150 inquiries so far, who we are connecting with 10 turtle projects around Central America and Mexico. We are setting up a number of turtle trips next year for museums, zoos, and other organizations and will launch a school field trip and educational program in the Fall.

Check back soon for more updates and check out our upcoming trips to become part of the turtle conservation travel wave!

22 June 2009

A matter of timing

One of the top 2 threats to sea turtles is getting caught and drowning in fishing gear. Being air-breathing reptiles, turtles need to reach the surface to breathe regularly. When they get held under in nets or on lines, they often die. Researchers at NOAA have determined that many of these drownings can be avoided if the turtles are held underwater less than 50 minutes.

As a way to prevent turtle drowning, NOAA has hired a company to create a "tow-time logger" (pun probably intended). This cylinder would record depth and time the net is underwater as a way to reduce turtle mortality while allowing fishermen to keep fishing. Both conservationists and fishermen seem skeptical. Any significant time underwater can hurt turtles even if it doesn't kill them and turtles caught multiple times may not be able to hold their breath as long.

Fishermen wouldn't be too excited about having to pull up their nets very often, which would reduce their catch. However with possible closing of entire fisheries to protect endangered loggerhead turtles, these loggers might be a better option.

More information at MSNBC.com.

-Brad Nahill

16 June 2009

Happy 100th Archie!

Today marks the 100th birthday of the man most responsible for sea turtles still being around.  Dr. Archie Carr was born on June 16th, 1009 in Alabama.  Though not as famous as his contemporary Jacques Cousteau (who turns 100 next year), Dr. Carr was every bit as effective a conservationist.  In his honor, today is also Sea Turtle Day.

Among his many firsts were earning the first doctorate awarded by the University of Florida in zoology, starting the world's first sea turtle project (Tortuguero, Costa Rica), and founding the first organization dedicated to the survival of sea turtles (the Caribbean Conservatio
n Corporation).  Tortuguero (right), now celebrating its 50th 
year, is the world's longest continuously running wildlife conservation and was recently named one of the most successful conservation projects ever by the Smithsonian with a more than 500% increase in green turtle nesting since inception.  Dr. Carr also helped to protect one of the world's most important loggerhead sea turtle nesting beaches in Florida, now known as the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge.

All turtle lovers owe Dr. Carr a thank you today.  Hopefully he's somewhere where turtles don't have to worry about extinction...

CCC has a moving tribute here.

15 June 2009

Ocean Progress

While climate change legislation is languishing in Congress, ocean conservation efforts have made progress over the past few days.  President Obama recently announced an Ocean Protection Plan that will finally create a national policy that (hopefully) will coordinate between the numerous government agencies that make decisions affecting the ocean.  

This is long overdue and was recommended by two prestigious ocean commissions years ago, only to fall on deaf ears under the previous president.  A strong national ocean policy would not only allow conservation to have an equal voice in the decision-making process, it ideally would also give momentum to creating more marine protected areas where fish and wildlife can be fully protected.  Treehugger has more here.

Another positive step recently was tobacco legislation passed by both houses of Congress and soon to be signed by President Obama.  While not primarily an environmental bill, the expected drop in smoking from the increased regulations is a good thing for the oceans (and land).  Anyone that has participated in a coastal cleanup has picked up dozens of these ubiquitous filters from the beach, where they are tossed without thought by smokers.  For years, these butts have been the top item (by far) found in Ocean Conservancy's annual International Coastal Cleanup.  In 2008 alone, more than 3.2 million butts were collected from beaches around the world, a full 28% of total items found!  More information on the legislation at Washington Post.

08 June 2009

Celebrate World Ocean Day by Taking Action

Today is World Ocean Day (not to be confused with World Turtle Day, World Environment Day, or Earth Day) so show your love for the ocean by doing something, big or small. A few suggestions below:

Volunteer with a sea turtle project

Vote for your favorite Shrimp Sucks video by commenting here

Go without plastic for a day

Ask President Obama to ask Congress to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty

Ask your representatives to vote for Waxman - Markey Cap & Trade Legislation to stop global warming

Give someone a blue marble

SEE Turtles near home

01 June 2009

Unsustainable tourism in the Caribbean

The ugly side of mass market tourism is rearing its head in the Caribbean. Two recent articles show the before and after of large scale tourism that don't adequately benefit local communities and negatively affect wildlife. While research has showed that tourism on turtle nesting beaches can be done with minimal impact on turtles, large numbers of people and big hotels are never a good thing.

The first article details a study of how tourism is affecting a unique place in the Cayman Islands called "Stingray City". With up to 2,500 visitors at a time(!) coming to feed, stroke, and swim with the stingrays, this study has shown that the rays had weaker immune systems than non-disturbed rays. Boats also injure the stingrays and feeding of wild animals is never a good idea, especially food that they don't normally eat. A lot more of this kind of research is needed to make sure that tourism doesn't destroy what makes a location unique. SEE Turtles promotes "no viewing" areas where wildlife can avoid human stress and has guidelines for preventing impacts on sea turtles and other ocean wildlife.

Meanwhile, in the Dominican Republic, proposed large scale tourism development near Jaragua National Park threatens both the world's smallest reptile (the Jaragua sphaero or dwarf gecko) and one of the largest (leatherback sea turtles). Proposals includes hotels, golf courses, and a bauxite mine. Local groups such as the Jaragua Group are calling on the government to promote local micro-enterprises that would directly enlist the help of residents.