NOAA administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco and Adm. Thad Allen joined state, federal, and partner biologists today as they released 23 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles back into the Gulf of Mexico near Cedar Key, Fla., after the oily and injured turtles were rescued and rehabilitated from the effects of the Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill.
Scientists selected the area on Florida’s Gulf coast for release because it is an important foraging area for the species, the water was never oiled, and the habitat provides everything these turtles need for survival, according to Deepwater Horizon Response Communications.
“I’m pleased that Admiral Allen and I were able to assist with the release of these turtles. And we thank all of our partners in this rescue and rehabilitation effort,” said Dr. Lubchenco. “This is a wonderful day for all involved–but especially for the turtles.”
While Admiral Allen was quick to point out his ongoing analysis of the Macondo well and problem with the indeterminate material in the annulus, today’s press conference included at least some good news and was, as he said “a joyful occasion.”
“This morning …we released Kemp’s ridley sea turtles that have been rehabilitated. It was a great event…It allowed us to participate with these folks that have put so much effort and passion into recovovering [the marine wildlife.]”
Allen pointed out that the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is one of five endangered species found in the Gulf.
In 1973 after being declared endangered just three years earlier, with “good cooperation with Mexico” the sea turtle has made a “significant comeback in the Gulf.” In fact, Mexico has been a leader in the preservation of these centuries-old sea creatures.
“We released off Cedar Key because this is an area that has not received oil and is prime habitat for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtles,” said the admiral. He estimates the turtles were between one and three years old.
One reason for the comeback of the turtles was the invention of the turtle excluder device on shrimp trawls and also “paying attention to their habitat, which is important for their nesting,” said Allen. The female, who does not reach reproductive age until her thirties, only comes ashore to give birth, but is otherwise most at home in the bathlike salt water of the Gulf.
The effort is but a drop in the bucket, though.
By late July, 777 dead or injured turtles had been documented by environmental activists and scientists at Oceana. The actual numbers of dead, injured or imperiled sea turtles can of course, not be fully known.
For more information on the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, which was put on the US Fish and Wildlife Service List of Endangered Species in 1970, click here.