Florida Sea Turtles in Irma’s Path

Photo: pixabay

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.

Texas Aftermath

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. 

ARK facility during my visit in 2010. Photo: Katy Pye

Other key nesting and conservation facilities like Padre and South Padre Islands south of Corpus Christie escaped a Harvey hit.

HOW HURRICANES AFFECT SEA TURTLES

Off shore

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.

Storm’s landfall

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.

Loggerhead sea turtle coming onshore to lay eggs. Photo: NOAA

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.

Stay safe.

World Oceans Day ’14 ~ aka “Primal Parent Day”

Breakers M. Cst

Photo: Katy Pye

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:

sea turtles ~ Turtle Island Restoration Project and Seaturtle.org (a primary resource for all things sea turtle)

over-fishing  ~ MarineBio.org-“…a solvable problem.” World Wildlife Fund “More than 85 percent of the world’s fisheries have been pushed to or beyond their biological limits.”

ocean pollution ~ National Geographic and NOAA (“Eighty percent of pollution to the marine environment comes from the land.” I include plastics as a form of “run-off.”)

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.

After rain photo by Katy Pye

After rain
Point Cabrillo Lightstation Historic State Park
Photo: Katy Pye
All rights reserved

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.

Nesting Kemp's ridley Photo: Adrienne McCracken

Nesting Kemp’s ridley
Photo: Adrienne McCracken

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.