This gallery contains 12 photos.
Today is World Wildlife Day and we’re celebrating life beneath the surface, especially oceans. What we do and don’t do, especially on land, makes a huge difference under the seas. Continue reading
On the heals of devastating hurricane Harvey in Texas, Irma barrels toward Florida this weekend, putting thousands of people, domestic animals, and wildlife, including endangered sea turtles, in jeopardy. Sea turtle rehabilitation facilities that care for injured turtles have been working ’round the clock, preparing for the worst.
According to Dr. Charles Manire, veterinarian and director of research and rehab at Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, FL, past experience proves there’s no safe place in Florida for sea turtles in a hurricane—especially corkers like Irma. In this video he anticipates the Center turtles’ move well inland to the Georgia Aquarium.
I visited the University of Texas’ non-public facility, Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) in Port Aransas, Texas while researching my novel, Elizabeth’s Landing. Unfortunately, the facility sustained severe damage, but I was glad to hear the wildlife in its care and the staff were unhurt.
Other key nesting and conservation facilities like Padre and South Padre Islands south of Corpus Christie escaped a Harvey hit.
Destructive impacts of a hurricane begin before the storm reaches shore. The storm’s wind energy mixes warm surface and deeper cold waters, lowering salt levels. Wave size increases, damaging underwater formations and stirring up tremendous loads of sand from the bottom. The food web for numerous species can be altered, short and long-term.
Relocating sea turtle eggs is done but it is delicate, even under ideal conditions. Once the storm hits land, storm surges have deadly impacts on existing nests or nesting turtles. Eggs can drown or become exposed, scattered, and destroyed. Adult or emerging hatchlings are also at high risk.
However, according to Joe Scarola, a biologist for Ecological Associates Inc., a company that monitors sea turtle nests, Irma’s timing comes when the majority of eggs this season have already hatched. Nesting season continues through the end of October in Florida, so there’s a chance more eggs will be laid. Still it’s hard not to imagine thousands of recently hatched, 2″ turtles aren’t having a harrowing experience in today’s raging seas.
The very good news is it’s been a banner year for Florida sea turtle nests. Loggerhead Marinelife Center reports over 19,000 loggerhead, green, and leatherback nests on four beaches it monitors. Other groups also report many more nests in their regions.
Rehabilitating and protecting sea turtles is very expensive. Please consider a donation of any size to the organizations working valiantly to save them. Find one in your area here.
NOTE: If you come across eggs or stranded sea turtles of any size, report them to a local wildlife authority or sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation organization.
Nesting for many sea turtles is going well this season — a thumbs up and huzzah to everyone, working to aid, repopulate, and love these wonderful creatures.
On the downside, poaching activities for sea turtle eggs and meat continues in Asia, Mexico, and countries like Costa Rica, where volunteers were seriously threatened last month by a gang perhaps linked to drug trafficking. In some cultures, sea turtles, like other wild (many threatened or endangered) species’ parts or eggs are believed to have aphrodisiac properties when consumed. Apparently, there are risks (of more than a belly-ache) in that special Saturday-night-delight meal.
Changing or creating newer, healthier beliefs of any sort is difficult. Perhaps news out of Popular Science (written by Jason Tetro) will send winds of change around the globe: sea turtles can be dangerous to your health and to the health of those you love.Along with Salmonella and e Coli, Tetro reports:
“One of the bacterial genera found within the turtle microbial population is Vibrio. It’s best known for V. cholerae species, the cause of cholera. But another species, V. parahaemolyticus, has been growing in prevalence across the globe. It causes gastroenteritis, wound infection, ear infection and has the potential to cause scepticemia. A third species, V. alginolyticus is less concerning as a pathogen but has caused close to 10% of Vibrio infections at least in one American study.” Jason Tetro
And some of these diseases are resistant to antibiotics, leading, in some cases, long-term implications for the patient. Bacteria that may cause illnesses in people live on the outside of sea turtles, too.
As research on sea turtles continues, it’s time to get the word out, to shift to new belief systems. Someone, please, find a an invasive weed and spread the word it’s the new, better Viagra. May bundles of otherwise useless vegetation sway, drying in the breeze, in once sea turtle slaughter huts.
Man-made waste accidentally or deliberately contributed to lakes, streams, seas, and oceans.
Plastic pollution leads the pack of insults, but as the powerful photo above attests, derelict fishing gear (DFG) adds untold insults to mounting injuries.
Some days reading environmental news sends an emotional death ray into my hope for our planet. I end up deflated as an old tire. This World Oceans Day, I decided sharing a few success stories might put the spin back in my wheels.
Every year hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of people gather to reclaim from, or keep trash out of, our oceans, seas, and other waterways. Some gather for a day. For others cleanup is a career. Here are a few examples of what’s working.
561,895 volunteers in 91 countries collected 16,186,759 pounds (7,226 metric tons) of trash over 13,360 miles. One of the most unusual finds was $1,680 in cash. Largest “pieces” haul – cigarette butts – 2,117,931 of them. Ick. See if you can give up any of the Top 10 Items Found. I bought glass and stainless drinking straws and re-useable bamboo picnic ware to keep in the car. They make great presents, too.
I’m extremely lucky to live near the ocean. Our local harbor supports a fair number of fishing boats. In the winter and spring, we have fresh Dungeness crab, and salmon and local fish during other times of the year. Crab pots and derelict fishing gear are ongoing dangers to marine life, boats, and economic livelihoods in many fisheries. Sustainable solutions often mean partnerships between the fishing industry, states, non-profits, and federal government agencies, like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
CRAB POT RETRIEVAL, REUSE, RECYCLE PROGRAMS
In 2009, NOAA’s Marine Debris Program employed off-season crab fishermen to remove nearly 3,000 derelict crab pots from Oregon’s coastal waters. The Program’s Fishing for Energy funds paid for disposal bins along the coast where fishermen could discard used gear for free. A steel company recycled and sheared the waste, and an energy company burned ropes and nets as renewable fuel. The program was so successful, it will continue to remove additional pots through an industry-led partnership of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, state Department of Fish and Wildlife, and NOAA.
The University of California School of Veterinary Medicine, the SeaDoc Society, and the Humboldt, CA Fishermen’s Marketing Association also have a pilot program to retrieve derelict crab pots. With i.d. info from the pot’s tag, they locate the original owner and offer them the pots for less than half the cost of a new one. Sales support future cleanups and unsold gear is recycled. Five hundred and fifty pots were collected in just two months this year. Program video (2:39)
Fishermen in North Carolina’s Pamlico Sound (through another NOAA partnership), are collecting and re-purposing 4 to 7 tons of crab pot material into 700 linear feet of oyster reefs. The goal is to rebuild the local, Eastern oyster fishing industry.
GHOST “Legacy” NETS
Abandoned gill nets are made of non-biodegradable mono or multifilament line. Fish and other marine life continue to be snared in this “ghost fishing.” Their value is lost to the environment and to the fishing economy. The inland ocean waters of Puget Sound was a burial ground for thousands of these legacy nets. Over the last decade the Northwest Straits Foundation, working with professional divers, NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, state agencies, and others, has removed all 5,600 abandoned and dangerous nets. Talk about success. “Diving for Debris” Program video (6:04)
THE FUN FOR LAST
I am SO stoked about the Marine Debris Tracker app. A collaboration between NOAA’s Marine Debris Program and the University of Georgia’s Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative, this free app for Apple and Android smartphones and tablets turns you into a citizen trash scientist. Download the app, track, and log your trash collection sites (through GPS), regardless of where you are in the world and whether you’re on a beach, on the ocean, your street, school, local stream ~ wherever. Your info goes into a growing global database, allowing scientists to better understand the world’s trash picture. From knowledge comes solution, right?
This little free tool is so impressive it was included in Apple’s 25th Worldwide Developers Conference promotional video, “Apps We Can’t Live Without.” Oceans advocate Emily Penn, of Pangaea Exploration collects data on marine debris. MDT is an app she “can’t live without,” she told the Apple audience. Just think of the progress we could make if every kid with a smartphone or tablet starting tracking (and picking up) trash.
I’m no Emily Penn, but my ipad’s loaded and a collection bag’s by the door ready for today’s test run.
Ahh, I feel a lot better now. If you have an environmental success story (or you download MDT), please share your good news in the comments.
HAPPY WORLD OCEAN’S DAY!
Peace. Thanks for doing what you can.
P.S. The beautiful Monk seal in the opening photo was one of two rescued off Hawaii from this derelict net.
Interconnected seas form our parent ocean — to my mind, the most critically endangered species on the planet. We are undeniably linked: biologically (from whence we came), for sustenance (food, water, air), and emotionally (see “Blue Mind”-Wallace J. Nichols). We all know our parent is in trouble. What we do on land, and in the air and water can help or hurt. I’m always looking for ideas.
Yesterday, Marinebio.org posted a terrific education and action tool. “101 Ways to Make a Difference: Take Action for Threatened and Endangered Species.” Arranged by category, and not just about ocean issues, it’s easy to find a topic that warms your heart, makes your blood boil, or both. The deepest and most long-lasting changes — individually and for the planet — launch from a single passion, then often spread.
My top 4 (with links in green) are:
the atmosphere ~ If you click on only one thing in this post, choose this one. iMatter: Young people are taking governments to court in a fight to protect the atmosphere. These powerful, passionate, and eloquent kids are using society’s highest tools to force the top game-changers to uphold and act under the law. Their stories and presence touch, educate, and empower. Expect goosebumps, smiles, maybe a touch of “parental” pride.
We’re in this together. Feel free to share your favorite “primal parent” links, suggestions, and stories in the comments.
Thanks for stopping by, peace, and do what you can.
P.S. It’s sea turtle nesting season in many places and all 7 species are threatened or endangered. To avoid extinction, they need to up their reproduction rates. Please report any turtles or nests you find to appropriate local groups. Seaturtle.org lists 228+/- sea turtle groups in 63 countries. Follow local requirements or best practices, such as turning off outside lights at night. Don’t interfere with, or distract adults or hatchlings. Know how your fish and seafood is caught and whether laws to protect sea turtles from drowning in shrimping nets are being followed. Louisiana defiantly refuses to enforce federal fishing laws that protect sea turtles during shrimp trawling.
Watch this beautiful video of Lula by filmmaker, Boombaye
Leatherbacks are the largest sea turtle species (up to 6 ft long, 2000 lbs), arguably not the prettiest, but certainly the deepest divers. While not as old as sharks at 320 million years (here even before trees), leatherbacks, like all sea turtle species, are ancient creatures–over 100 million years on the planet.
The ancient Archelon above, believed to be a direct ancestor to the leatherback, was swimming the oceans in what is now South Dakota.
Here we sit 100 million years later, staring into the barrel of extinction for the glorious, ponderous Pacific leatherback. Important Western Pacific nesting sites have dropped 78% in 30 years. Higher global temps warm nesting sands, leading to male-only hatches.
Recognizing the Pacific leatherback’s peril and the importance of jellyfish feeding grounds off the Golden State (a stunning 7,000-mile migration), legislators placed restrictions on fishing practices and created fishing exclusion zones along the California coast. Oregon and Washington adopted similar restrictions in an effort to protect and extend loggerhead migration and feeding territory. In 2012, California designated the Pacific leatherback our State Marine Mammal. The annual celebration day, October 15th, is a chance to remember they’re here, but more importantly to recognize their escalating decline and double down on conservation efforts. Nothing short of rapier-sharp vigilance, hard work, and strong education efforts will ensure the Pacific loggerheads’ future.
Let’s start with the fun (subtext: cheerful education leads to action).
2) Spread the word! Visit Sea Turtle Conservation Program’s list of celebration ideas. I’ve taken the pledge, visited, “Liked,” and shared the Leatherback’s Celebration Facebook page. Read, share or gift books about sea turtles. Fiction or non-fiction, there’s something out there for all ages.
3) Collect and cut out the plastic! Plastic and beach debris collection is paramount to keeping litter out of the mouths and guts of sea turtles (leatherbacks are particularly prone to eating any plastic, including balloons, that looks like a jellyfish). Beach debris can block hatchlings from reaching the ocean and make them more vulnerable to predators.
A challenge: try going without plastic for 1 week. track how much and what plastic you avoided using or buying. Post what you learned here, your own blog, Facebook, etc. What can you turn into permanent changes to your plastic use? My Plastic Free Life is an encouraging and practical blog (and book) to make the shift a whole lot easier. Here are two products I’ve adopted. Eliminated plastic shampoo and cream rinse bottles and plastic floss container. Love both products.
Celebrating=balloons, right? WRONG! Balloons and their ribbons deplete scarce and dwindling helium supplies (critical to medicine and science), drift for miles, and end up as deadly trash for sea turtles, mammal marine life, and birds. Balloons Blow has festive, safe alternatives and more information.
How about turtle cupcakes to give out in class with a note asking people to reduce plastic use and to learn about sea turtles. Give them a link or three to your favorite leatherback websites, photos, or articles.
Healthier alternatives? Make a turtle-shaped fruit bowl from a watermelon. Invite the neighborhood in. Here’s a charming, and edible, fable about how land turtles went to the sea (complete with carved vegetable and egg turtle characters and curry recipe) from VegSpinz.
6) Donate. Leatherback sea turtles, like every endangered species, hugely depend on us human beings stepping up to solve problems driving them to extinction. Species celebration days are reminders of our part and our responsibilities.
Give, if you can, money, time, and/or talent to your favorite sea turtle organizations. Two that work for Pacific leatherbacks are Sea Turtle Restoration Project, Sea Turtles Forever and See Turtles (eco trips to work with leatherbacks).
Re-post this blog or find others. Then reach deeper and farther. If petitions cross your social media or e-mail, ones asking governments to enforce turtle protection laws, please read and consider signing because…
Threats to leatherbacks (and many other sea turtles) continue to grow:
Egg and turtle predation: by humans and animals. Poaching (with increasing links to drug use and trafficking) in third-world countries tops the list of species decline. Quasi-legal egg collection is sometimes part of agreements between locals and turtle conservationists who share the eggs for mutual benefit (80%/20% for example in Guatamala). One group for livelihood and food. The other for hatch and release.
Longline and shrimp bottom trawl shrimp fishing (pelagic longline fishing is now banned off CA, OR, and WA coast).
However, “Spiraling loggerhead deaths (are) linked to fishing gear off Baja California” October 2, 2013. “This year, 705 dead loggerheads were reported by officials”… in two months. “Scientists say the official numbers are far below the reality.”
Up to half the leatherback turtles each year are caught and killed or injured in longline fisheries. They continue to drown in shrimp nets due to lack of Turtle Excluder Device rule enforcement and low fines. Longline targets migratory fish species: tuna, swordfish, and halibut and the rapid reduction in the numbers of Pacific leatherbacks may be telling us current regs and practices aren’t working.
Marine pollution: After fishing, THE MAJOR CAUSE OF DEATH among adult leatherbacks: plastic bags, styrofoam, and other marine debris that mimic their food–jellyfish. Entanglement and drowning in fishing gear, oil spills, and boat strikes also take their toll.
Beach development: Increased erosion and night lights disorient hatchlings who head toward the brightest light, their guide to the horizon and water. They end up in someone’s patio or mired in dune grass instead.
Sea Turtles Forever has “established a Sea Turtle Hotline for people to report sea turtle sightings in the Northeastern Pacific foraging areas. Please call 1-503-739-1446 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to report a sea turtle sighting in the Northeastern Pacific Ocean or on any Canadian, Washington, Oregon or California Beaches.”
Other information sources used in this blog.
For a true-to-life sea turtle and family saga, visit Elizabeth’s Landing: a novel by Katy Pye
Ages 10 to adult. Widely available in paperback and e-books.
Activist, author, and $1,000 Kohl’s Cares Scholarship winner, Cameron (Amie) Koporc has done more for sea turtles than most people think of doing in half a lifetime. Now she’s started a petition at Change.org to get legislators to make Georgia the 7th state to protect wildlife and reduce pollution by outlawing mass balloon releases.
A former resident of Florida, now living in the Atlanta Georgia suburb of Roswell, Amie’s learned a lot about sea turtles since her family adopted a sea turtle nest in her name as a 7th birthday present. She recently told the Roswell Neighbor news journal, “When I grow up I want to work in a rescue center for ocean animals. I just hope it isn’t too late by then.” So do I, but she’s working hard to make sure turtles and other animals remain part of the planet’s ecosystems forever.
This Blaire Wirthington photo on my website page Threats to Sea Turtles illustrates what can happen when a balloon ends up at sea. This little Kemp’s ridley was lucky someone spotted him. The ribbon or string can be as deadly as the balloons.
While Amie’s petition is directed at influencing Georgia politicians, sea turtles, birds, and people everywhere are impacted by balloon trash. All states should get the message, so each one added works to tip permanent change in the right direction. As of this writing, Amie has upped her signature goal to 2500 and is 408 signatures shy. Help by adding yours.
It’s true! It’s a miracle! Okay, that’s overstating it, but how it feels after six years. An e-book version of Elizabeth’s story is available through Barnes and Noble’s Nook site. If you don’t have a Nook device, don’t worry, you can download the app for free and read on your computer or other mobile devices. Go to B&N’s Mobile Apps webpage to sign in, sign up, and connect to the right download.
If you’re the something soft and flexible, tree-based-book type person, the Print-on-Demand version will be out by June through Amazon. A Kindle version will go up about the same time, maybe sooner if I’m successful formatting it myself, as I did the Nook. Watch my Facebook Author site, Follow me here, or leave your e-mail on the Contact Me page above for updates.
PLEASE, once you’ve finished the book, leave feedback and ratings at these sites, Goodreads, Facebook it, blog it, etc., because…
A portion of all my book sale profits support worldwide sea turtle conservation and education programs. B&N has e-book gift cards. Bookstores do, too. I’m just sayin’ . . .
Flags are flying–get out your calendar. The revised book launch date at Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino, CA. is June 30th, 6:30 p.m. Tux, tails, and formals optional, but my tiara’s getting steam-blasted and the side seams of my Senior Prom dress are sprung WAY out for the event.
I’m working on Grandma Linnie to do some of the catering.
Deepest thanks to everyone who has given writing help, an ear to moments of pain and joy, celebrations at key steps, and for believing all these years I really was writing a novel.
Indie publishers and indie bookstores are trying hard to work together so each can survive and grow. I’m publishing with the “big houses” (interpret at will) because it is the most direct, profitable way for me to get books into readers’ hands. Please support your local, or any independent bookstore, and encourage them to carry books you want to read. I’m working to collaborate with them, too.
Port Winston—home to sun, sand, and shopping. What’s not to like? Everything, to 14 year-old Elizabeth Barker, uprooted mid-school year to the Texas coast. When Grandpa, with more judgments than the Old Testament, pronounces her 10¢ shy of worthless and headed for trouble, Elizabeth bolts for Wayward Landing beach—the county’s last wild haven.
A chance encounter with an endangered, nesting sea turtle ignites new purpose, friendships, and trouble even Grandpa couldn’t predict. Her fight to save the Landing unearths complex family ties to the powerful developer and catapults her against those she loves. When the Deepwater Horizon oil slick threatens the turtles’ Louisiana feeding grounds, Elizabeth’s journalist mom hits the front lines. And Elizabeth’s fears and plans hit overdrive.
Elizabeth’s Landing, a compelling environmental and family saga, bridges risk and loss to hope and hearts —human to human, human to animal, human to world.
Ages 10 and up.
P.S. Turtle nesting season has begun along the Gulf coast. Info under Elizabeth’s Sea Turtles tells you the best places to visit to see turtles or hatchling releases. Donations are always welcome.
In my World Ocean’s Day post last June, I summarized the mounting problem of plastics in the world’s oceans. This map names the North Pacific gyre–the most infamous–but there are five, major “gyres” on the planet. The one off America’s Atlantic coast is home to the Sargasso Sea. All five gyres are growing plastic garbage dumps, creating serious problems for wildlife and ocean habitat.
Countless young people are making positive changes to our planet’s future. Yesterday, friend and fellow writer Ginny Rorby blogged an appeal to help talented and dedicated photographer, Justin Lewis and author Michelle Stauffer, realize their documentary short film and book project through Kickstarter.
Justin and Michelle have completed Phases I and II and are more than half-way home with just over $12,000 left to fully fund Phase III, “Sargasso Sea and Plastics Pollution.” If you can help, go the their Kickstarter page and donate what you can. An easy way to be part of the “pollution solution.”
“The natural world holds the link to the spirit in each of us.“ Justin Lewis and Michelle Stauffer, “The Penobscot River” film
To learn more about Justin and Michelle’s projects, see (and buy!) stunning photographs, and watch their films: www.70DEGREESWEST.com.
Thanks and peace.
Happy “Pi (Pye?) Day” from the math phobic! Family rumor: we Pyes WILL go on forever!
WAY TO GO, CALIFORNIA!
September 26th, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation naming the critically endangered leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) the state’s marine reptile.
This Monday, October 15th is — and every October 15th to come:
Pacific Leatherback Conservation Day!
Leatherbacks are the “Texas*-sized” member of the sea turtle species. The largest, they lay the biggest eggs in the highest number of clutches, travel the greatest distances (and to more varied environments — tropical to subarctic), and dive the deepest (like, whale deep, up to 3,000+ ft/900+ m), looking for their favorite food, jellyfish.
Imagine an animal as delicate and water-filled as a jelly, powering such a huge reptile around the world. The Pacific coast of California is one foraging habitat for leatherbacks, which can now find protection within a 16,000 square-mile “critical habitat zone” up and down the state.
This week’s THUMBS DOWN for HAWAII
The bad news for leatherback and loggerhead turtles hanging out around Hawaii is the National Marine Fisheries Service has relaxed regulations, supporting the island’s long-line industry by increasing the number of turtles that can be legally caught (even killed) as by-catch during swordfish fishing.
In November the numbers for leatherbacks “go up to 26, more than a 60 percent increase, and the loggerhead catch to 34, about a 100 percent increase.” (Washington Post Oct 6, 2012). While these numbers seem small, both sea turtle species have suffered major population declines in the last few decades due to fishing, egg and turtle poaching, and ingesting plastics. Female leatherbacks reach breeding age when they are between 7 and 13 years-old. They may lay up to 10 clutches a year, they only nest every 2 to 7 years (2-4 is average). With all they face surviving to reach adulthood, then reproduce, cutting down threats, rather than raising limits on them, seems prudent.
As bad is the by-catch issue, escaped and discarded plastic is arguably the worst enemy of the ocean and its inhabitants. I taped this photo to my back door as a reminder to take cloth shopping bags with me and to watch for plastic-alternative packaging.
Keep balloons on a tether and dispose of properly–this does NOT include releasing them into the sky*!
* Speaking of Texas and sky, watch for my next blog post, “UPDATE: Kids Winning for the Atmosphere,” coming soon.