New York Times Blog Asks Us: Do We Really Need Turtles?
Posted by Mike Milne on June 2nd, 2008
|Loggerhead soars into the depths - © Doug Perrine/Seapics.com|
"Does the world need leatherback turtles? Most likely not."
That's how the New York Times
coverage (thanks!) of the Great Turtle Race II came to a close Monday.
This was presumedly a "devil's advocate" position, but it seems that
some of Mr. Revkin's readers heartily agreed. Perhaps you've never
thought about the value of leatherbacks beyond their instrinsic right to exist? Or
recognized that sea turtles have what Economists' refer to as "existence value" (the value
people like me derive from laying in bed knowing that somewhere out
there swims a creature of incredible resiliency and grace)? Or maybe
you implicitly understood that to pose this question about an ancient
species makes the world... a smaller, lonelier place.
The question "Does the world need [insert]?" seldoms gets asked, but
could be applied much more broadly. Does the world need potato chips?
Does the world need high heels? Does the world need air travel? These
aren't questions that we ask ourselves. Why not? And what does it
mean when we pose this question about a 100-million-year-old species? Is it
indicative of the hubris and anthropocentrism of a modern life spent
mostly indoors? Is it ignorance? Is it greed?
What is going on?!? What does your life experience tell you?
And in case you are wondering, here's how Todd Steiner responded:
We (the Earth’s inhabitants) definitely do need leatherback turtles.
This isn’t a question of aesthetics, as some readers state, because the
ultimate lesson of ecology is “everything is connected.”
For example, nesting leatherback and other sea turtles reverse the
usual flow of energy from land to sea and bring nutrients from the sea
back to low nutrient beach habitats. Their eggs provide calcium that
supports growth of dune vegetation which is the frontline against
hurricane impacts on other inland habitats (where people like to build
people their homes).
Leatherbacks eat (lots of) jellyfish including the stinging type we
all like to avoid. Jellyfish blooms (which impact fisheries,
recreation, and other maritime activities) have been linked to decrease
in sea turtle populations.
Leatherback eggs and hatchlings feed a myriad of terrestrial
species, which in their unique ways connect to other parts of our
ecosystem upon which humans and other species rely.
These are some of roles we know leatherbacks play in ecosystem
functions and who knows how other roles they play that we don’t know.
It is arrogant to think that we humans know enough about the role
various species play in the web of life to assume it’s OK to lose a few
of the working parts.
If you disagree, try to take apart a clock and just throw away one
of the pieces that doesn’t look that imortant. Put the clock back
together and see if still works.
High Fuel Prices May Be Good for Oceans and Sea Turtles
Posted by Michael Milne on May 29th, 2008
Unless you live under a rock (and use one of those foot-powered Fred Flintstone cars), you’ve probably noticed that gas prices have gone up, way up. Today we hear what may be one of several silver linings about the end of “cheap” energy--news that the increasing fuel costs may reduce overfishing in the world’s ocean.
See Longliners idle in port, citing fuel costs.
See fuel prices leading to less longlining.
In case you don’t know, recent studies are predicting a global fishery collapse by about 2045 (and I’m surprised that they predict it that far into the future). Most scientists agree that the global ill of overfishing is at least partially due to overcapacity, a reality that is perpetuated by subsidies.
I have always felt that the WTO negotiations over the reduction of fishing subsidies hold great promise to cure overfishing. Now, with high fuel prices, they hold even more importance.
How much do we spend on fuel subsidizing the decimation of our fish and turtles?
Estimated fuel subsidy for some of the developed countries
Country (US$/Litre) Litres (million) Total cost US$ millions/yr
Australia 0.20 205 41
France *0.14 673 94
Greece *0.20 68 14
Hong Kong 0.40 155 62
Japan 0.25 4,459 1,115
Spain 0.10 1,259 122
Taiwan1 0.09 1,329 120
USA 0.06 3,010 184
Total 1,752 million dollars!!!
FUEL SUBSIDIES TO GLOBAL FISHERIES:
MAGNITUDE AND IMPACTS ON RESOURCE SUSTAINABILITY1
Ussif Rashid Sumaila1, Louise Teh1, Reg Watson1, Peter Tyedmers2 and Daniel Pauly1
Fisheries Centre, Aquatic Ecosystems Research Laboratory (AERL), University of British Columbia.
2202 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC., V6T 1Z4, Canada
School for Resource and Environmental Studies (SRES), Faculty of Management,
Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada
Kemp's Ridley Nestings Closing on Last Year's Record!
Posted by Carole Allen, Gulf Office Director on May 23rd, 2008
The finding of seven new Kemp's ridley sea turtles nests on the Texas coast on Thursday, May 29, brings the 2008 total to 101. Last year 128 nests were found and with more time left in the nesting season, that record will surely be broken.
With record numbers of Kemp's ridleys returning to the Mexican nesting beach at Rancho Nuevo, Mexico, it looks like a promising year in the Kemp's ridley struggle to survive following near extinction in the mid-80s. Stay tuned for more exciting developments.
Plan to block tuna fishing welcomed
Posted by Teri Shore on May 22nd, 2008
ENVIRONMENTAL groups have welcomed a decision by eight Pacific nations to block tuna fishing in pockets of international waters. See the story or keep reading.
A meeting in Palau of 17 Pacific countries, including Australia, yesterday noted the plan to stop boats from fishing for tuna in two large areas of international waters.
The so-called "doughnut holes" were identified as having been plundered by tuna fishermen.
One is north of Papua New Guinea, and the other is further east.
The plan to protect the areas was agreed to by the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.
From June 15, all tuna vessels licensed to fish in their waters will be banned from taking tuna in the two areas.
Boats entering the protected waters from any of the eight signatory countries will have to carry fisheries observers on board at all times.
The move was prompted by fears that many stocks of valuable tuna species such as yellow fin and big eye are being fished at unsustainable levels.
"This is an historic moment in fisheries management in the region," said Greenpeace oceans campaigner Jason Collins.
"The Australian Government support for Pacific Island countries taking such a bold step was helpful, but we need to see Australia taking a leadership role in ensuring that these areas of international waters are closed to fishing.
Greenpeace oceans campaigner Lagi Toribau said vessels determined to get into the doughnut holes could, in theory, still enter via the seas of countries that had not signed up, such as Fiji.
"That will be part of a bigger fight the eight countries take to Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting in December," he said.
He said while the fishing restrictions could push up the price of tuna, sustainable fishing would mean more stable prices in the long term.
Reward For Reporting Sea Turtle Mutilation
Posted by Carole Allen on May 19th, 2008
History was made again on the Texas coast on May 16 when the most Kemp's ridley nests found on any single day was recorded. Nineteen nests were found including nine at the Padre Island National Seashore, five on South Padre Island; three on Boca Chica Beach, one on Mustang Island and one on San Jose Island. This was the most Kemp's ridley nests documented on the Texas coast in a single day since record-keeping began in 1980, according to Dr. Donna Shaver, Chief, Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery. Padre Island National Seashore,National Park Service. So far this year, 78 Kemp's ridley nests have been confirmed on the Texas coast.
Unfortunately, at least 12 possible cases of mutilation to have been recorded including a sea turtle at the National Seashore on May 8 with all flippers and its head cut off plus removal of internal organs. I contacted federal law enforcement and asked for an investigation into this inhumane finding. Although sharks are known to attack sea turtles, an investigation is needed to prove that it was a shark attack.
Thousands of dollars of reward money are available from the federal government if a report of killing an endangered sea turtle leads to arrest and prosecution. Anyone having information about the killing of a sea turtle should call the NOAA law enforcement Hotline (800) 853-1964 and report it.
Costa Rican shrimp safe for turtles?
Posted by Randall Arauz on May 13th, 2008
Last May 1st, the US government announced that it had certified 40 nations as meeting the requirements set by Section 609 of PL 101-162 for continued importation of shrimp into the United States, including Costa Rica. Ironically, as the US acknowledged the Costa Rican shrimp industry for protecting turtles, 13 artisinal fishing organization and PRETOMA filed suit against the Costa Rican Fisheries Institute INCOPESCA, for failure to enforce TED regulations and cause the deaths of at least 10,000 sea turtles per year. I have been working on this issue for over a decade, and know by experience that a US certification only means that on the day of the announced inspection, TEDs were installed during port inspections. Costa Rica has already been slapped with 3 embargoes since 1999 for failure to use TEDs. When the last embargo was imposed in 2005, inspectors busted 3 shrimp vessels cheating, on the day of the announced inspection! According to US law, to obtain a certification countries must have a comparable turtle conservation program (shrimp trawlers must use TEDs). The 13 fishing organizations and PRETOMA filed suit because 17 vessels have been captured without TEDS over the last 3.5 years, and not a single one has been sanctioned. Is this a comparable program? Do boats ever get busted in the US? If they do, do they ever pay fines? If so, then there is no way in which the Costa Rican program is comparable to the US program, and thus, the US must impose the embargo, as Costa Rican shrimp trawlers are killing turtles.
Posted by Mike Milne on May 12th, 2008
Here's a video I use to recharge my batteries.
Kemp's ridleys nesting on the upswing
Posted by Carole Allen on May 7th, 2008
Things are still looking good for the Kemp's ridley nesting season on Texas beaches. As of today (May 7), 48 nests have been found compared with 28 a year ago. In response to several dead sea turtles being found on the beaches and requests from the STRP Gulf Office, both federal and state law enforcement have gone into action boarding shrimp boats checking for Turtle Excluder Devices. The Gulf of Mexico commercial shrimp season for both state and federal waters will close from 30 minutes after sunset on Thursday, May 15, until an unspecified date in July. The closing and opening date is based on samples collected by Texas Parks and Wildlife Coastal Fisheries Division using trawls, bag seines and information gathered from the shrimping industry.
The closure is designed to allow small shrimp to grow to a larger more valuable size before they are vulnerable to harvest, according to Dr. Larry McKinney, TPWD coastal fisheries division director.
The sea turtles and every other creature that dies in shrimp trawls as untargeted species will benefit greatly from the closure.
Longlines: Trap lines of the Ocean
Posted by Michael Milne on May 5th, 2008
|(c) Doug Perrine/Seapics.com|
Imagine a 40-mile trap line strung out across the landscape like the telephone wires and power lines that crisscross the forests and deserts of your country. Every 250 feet or so, imagine a baited trap sitting ready to snare any animal that attempted to take a bite of what appears to be an easy meal. Imagine if companies set out trap lines and caught grizzly bears, wolves, lynx, moose, badgers, cougars, wolverines, and other wildlife in the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, or the Cascades.
This is what longline fishing would look like on land.
Imagine the response! People would go ballistic!
I thought of this “metaphor” the past week when I was lucky enough to attend Patagonia's "Grassroots Tools" conference in South Lake Tahoe, CA. While in Tahoe, I was struck by the beauty of the Sierra Nevada Mtns. I felt immediately connected to the snowfield-dotted peaks and the streams swollen with springtime runoff. Anyone would be hard pressed not to feel the power of that place and the urge to protect it from the threats of a clearcut, or a strip-mine, or a golf course.
It also got me thinking about one of the challenges facing Ocean advocates: the ocean is often a much more difficult place to visit. For many people who don't have the opportunity to get out onto the water, or go to the coast, it can be a bit of an abstract relationship. I cannot tell you how many times people have expressed shock and sheer delight at how beautiful sea turtles, whales, and some of the other marine wildlife actually are in real life. It is hard to imagine! (Thank goodness for snorkeling...)
Think about longlines as trap lines of the ocean next time you or someone you know considers eating some swordfish. It may make you or them think twice.
Brazil and Costa Rica have lots of potential for joint work
Posted by Randall Arauz on May 1st, 2008
I was recently invited by the AVINA Foundation, to visit Brazil and share my marine conservation experiences with local scientists and activists. During my stay (April 21 -28) I met Jose Truda who leads efforts to protect right whales, Joa Batista, a community leader in El Faro de Santa Marta who struggles to preserve the cultural identity of his community as well as the surrounding natural resources, Jorge Kotas of CEPSUL, a branch of the Ministry of Environment in charge of marine resource conservation, Guy Marcovaldi, the national coordinator of Projeto TAMAR, Brazil’s famous and successful sea turtle conservation program, as well as several of TAMAR’s researchers and biologists who work at different stations, such as César Augusto Da Silva who directs TAMAR’s project in Sergipe, and Gilberto Sales, one of TAMAR’s fishery biologists.
Not surprisingly, our colleagues in Brazil suffer the same issues. Overfishing, unsustainable coastal development, by catch issues, destruction of wetlands for shrimp farming, and shark finning. Even though there are many areas of potential collaboration, there are two fields I feel that PRETOMA could really help out. The first one is Turtle Excluder Devices, or TEDs. In Sergipe, the main problem for turtle conservation is identified as incidental catch by shrimp trawlers. There is an opportunity to work with these fishermen and teach them how to use them. The other field in which we could assist is the development of a national campaign against shark finning.
We could also really use TAMAR’s experience with environmental education and community involvement. At PRETOMA, we are now trying to consolidate a stretch of 30 km of beach which includes 5 nesting beaches. We could use TAMAR’s experience to develop an environmental interpretation center, designed to provide labor opportunities for members of these communities.
Share your sea turtle encounters here!
Posted by Teri Shore on April 30th, 2008
Seems that many people I meet, whether at a conference, on a hike, on a sunset cruise or a random encounter, have had a sea turtle experience. I just returned from an environmental health conference where one of the organizers told me she was swimming in La Jolla (near San Diego) when two sea turtles suddenly appeared: one small and one large. It was surprising since she had never seen them in all of her years of swimming there. They could have been greens, loggerheads or maybe even an olive ridley?
On our recent sunset cruise on the Adventure Cat, Captain Hans said he's spotted the rare leatherback once or twice outside the Golden Gate. And an Australian woman on board that night was a sea turtle lover whose goal is to visit every sea turtle nesting site in the world!
Other friends and acquaintenances have told me of seeing green turtles in Hawaii.
I've seen Kemp's ridleys in the hatcheries in Galveston and a loggerhead (I think) from off a shrimping dock in Georgia.
The sea turtle bring us together in surprising and mystical ways. Please share your sea turtle tales by going to the comment section of this blog and telling us your story!
Sea Turtle Restoration Booth wins at Houston Zoo!
Posted by Carole Allen on April 29th, 2008
Gulf Office of STRP
The Houston Zoo held Earth Day on April 19 and 20. The table assigned to Sea Turtle Restoration Project was always surrounded by children who made sea animal stencils on tiles they could take home. They also signed a scroll petition to send Governor Rick Perry asking him to protect Kemp's ridley sea turtles in the waters adjacent the Padre Island National Seashore.
The Earth Day sponsors thought the turtle table was best and picked it to receive a $500 check!
Rising Sea Level Threatens Leatherback Turtles Nesting Sites
Posted by Wenceslaus Magun on April 25th, 2008
Rising sea-levels are eroding the nesting sites and diverting leatherback turtles from their traditional sites and moving them to other sites.
In June 2007 during one of my field trips to STRP's pilot project sites in north coast about one and half hours drive from Madang town, in Papua New Guinea, I observed vast stretches of devastated sea shores, and beaches/dumes.
I recalled these scenic and pristine black sandy beaches that stretched for abaut 40 kilometers from Karkum through Mirap, Yadigam, Tokain, Malas, Dibor, and Sabente villages that we had visited in the fall of 2006 and wondered what impact these devastation will have on the surviving leatherback turtles that come to nest there.
Huge strong waves caused by rising sea levels and strong winds had spewed huge rocks, debris of dead trees, onto these dumes, leaving behind foot prints of many broken canoes, torn down village houses, exposed tree roots, uprooted trees, shrubs and destruction to the leatherback turtles nesting sites.
In the fall of 2006 I had been reliably informed by our STRP volunteers that about 10 leatherback turtles had come to nest along this bountiful beach. Sadly in the fall of 2007 we had witnessed only one leatherback turtle come to nest in Yadigam.
The drop in the number of leatherback turtles that come to nest may be caused by other eminent threats such as the commercial developments, overfishing using longlines and gillnets, pollution and marine debris but I cannot brush aside the fact that rising sea level is if not one of the major threats that needs immediate attention.
Two weeks ago I was fortunate to walk along the beach from Karkum to Mirap as we were doing the boundary survey using GPS, and was shown kilometers of beaches that are now under the sea that were 40 years ago homes to these village folks.
I have no doubt that this same experience will be told to the next generation decades later that the on shore boundary survey that we have just taken will be included under the offshore boundary and wondered whether there will be any more leatherback turtles left then to come and nest.
Sunset cruising for the sea turtles
Posted by Teri Shore on April 24th, 2008
Tomorrow night on April 25, we will be sailing San Francisco Bay on the Adventure Cat, a locally owned and crewed catamaran. We are delighted to have been invited on board by Jay Gardner, an environmentalist and sea turtle lover. Our leatherback campaigner Michael Milne, our development associate Maeve Murphy and I will be mingling with passengers and sharing tales of leatherback sea turtles that swim off the Pacific Coast. We hope the weather will be a bit warmer and sunnier than the last few days.
It is a trial run to see if people out on the Bay for a casual sail are interested in hearing about marine life, too! If so, we will try it again and invite some of you to join us! But you can always go anytime by reserving directly with Adventure Cat.
Want to know more about Leatherbacks?
Posted by Mike Milne on April 22nd, 2008
While online the other day, I came across this fascinating—albeit abit geeky—video on Leatherback turtle biology presented by Dr. Scott Eckert, Ph.D. a Scientist from Duke University interested in Marine Science & Conservation and an expert on sea turtles. This video may be long, but its worth watching as it describes some of the amazing talents and adaptations that made the Pacific Leatherback the only sea turtle to survive the asteroid that killed of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
For instance, @ 51:55, Dr. Eckert begins to describe how Leatherbacks use their flippers in an entirely different way than other sea turtles, and how this allows Leatherbacks to make the transoceanic voyages across the entire Pacific Ocean from nesting beaches in Indonesia to feeding areas along the US West Coast. Their unique way of swimming—as well as their body shape and other qualities—makes them incredibly efficient at swimming long distances. In fact, satellite-tracking data suggests Leatherbacks travel an average of approximately 6,000-miles/year roaming around the oceans—that’s about 16.5 miles almost every single day of every year for decades on end.
For the Love of Tuna
Posted by Teri Shore on April 17th, 2008
Last night I had dinner at the school cafeteria at Dominican College in San Rafael, CA, with author Richard Ellis (Empty Ocean, many other books, new book is Tuna - a Love Story due out in July) whose lecture that evening was hosted by Pt. Reyes National Seashore. The meeting was interesting and inspiring because I also got to hobnob with Don Neubacher, Pt Reyes superintendent, and his staff Sarah Allen, marine mammal expert, Ben Becker, biologist, and Jessica the new outreach coordinator.
Mr. Ellis previewed his upcoming book "Tuna - A Love Story," due out in July from Alfred A. Knopf. Ellis is fascinating with his tales of the power and beauty of the big bluefin tuna. He also described the species' decline from penning and "farming" around the world to provide sashimi primarily for Japan.
I was mesmerized by these magnificient predators when I saw them at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Interesting facts include:
- Bluefin tuna and other tuna are warm blooded unlike other fish and can turn on and off this function
- Tuna penning/farming in the Mediteranean, South Australia and other parts of the world is devastating the species
- The Tokyo fish market has recently closed to outsiders to avoid criticism over Japan's voracious consumption of disappearing fish
- South Australians have for the first time ever bred wild bluefin in captivity.
Mr. Ellis has published numerous books and articles on the oceans and marine life, and is an accompllished painter. He also served on the International Whaling Commission, trying to stop commerical whaling around the globe. He generously signed my copy of "Empty Ocean." His next book is on polar bears!
WESPAC votes to remove longline set limits
Posted by Mike Milne on April 16th, 2008
In 2001, a court found that the HI-based swordfish longline fishery violated federal law and closed the fishery. In 2004, NMFS reopened the fishery with detailed regulations requiring special gear and limiting the amount of fishing that could take place each year. The US government limited the maximum number of longline sets that
could be fished at 2,120 sets/yr. They concluded that additional
fishing would jepoardize the Pacific leatherback and Loggerhead turtle.
This past Monday, the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WESPAC) recommended that NMFS eliminate the limits on the number of longline sets/year. If approved, WESPAC's decision would rollback this critical regulation protecting sea turtles from shallow set longlines--a method 10x more likely than deep set longlines to capture and kill Pacific leatherbacks and loggerheads.
Thus, it appears that the Hawaii-based longline fishery is gearing up for a dramatic increase in swordfish fishing, with deadly consequences for imperiled sea turtles, whales, seals, and seabirds. At a time when WESPAC should be looking for ways to further decrease the impacts of longlining on ever shrinking populations of turtles, they are posed to allow even more fishing and by-catch of sea turtles. WESPAC and NMFS will be hearing from us and our members in the next couple months as we work to stop this myopic plan.
First Kemp's Ridley Nest Found in Texas!
Posted by on
South Padre Island was the site of the first Kemp's ridley nest recorded in Texas for the 2008 nesting season. The turtle was seen by a patrol from Sea Turtle, Inc., a conservation organization started by the late Ila Loetscher. The turtle had no tags or showed any evidence of being raised in captivity and laid 104 eggs which will be protected.
Patrols began in earnest on the entire Texas coast on April 1. 128 nests were found in 2007 breaking all previous records. The Kemp's ridley was near extinction in 1985 when only 350 females were known to exist. Mexico and the United States have worked together for 30 years to protect beaches and adult turtles. Legislation requiring Turtle Excluder Devices on shrimp trawls to allow sea turtles to escape has been an important part of increasing numbers of this endangered sea turtle in the Gulf of Mexico.
Carole H. Allen, Gulf Office Director
First Kemp's ridley nest in Texas
Posted by Teri Shore on April 14th, 2008
Carole Allen, our Gulf Director, just send me the news that the first Kemp's ridley nest of the season was found on the South Texas coast. Read the news.