For Immediate Release, July 2, 2010
Agreement Reached in Gulf to Prevent Sea Turtle Burning Deaths
Settlement Forces BP to Rescue Sea Turtles Before Oil Slicks Set on Fire
NEW ORLEANS— An agreement reached today among conservation groups, BP and the Coast Guard will ensure measures to rescue sea turtles from the surface before setting fire to oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico. The agreement came as a result of a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network, Animal Welfare Institute and Animal Legal Defense Fund.
“Endangered sea turtles need all hands on deck to work toward saving them from this terrible oil spill,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s great news that BP and the Coast Guard have agreed to take steps to rescue turtles and prevent them from burning.”
The agreement came moments before the start of a legal hearing sought by conservation groups to resolve the threats to turtles posed by intentionally set fires intended to burn off spilled oil in the Gulf. BP and the Coast Guard agreed to develop a protocol ensuring no endangered sea turtles will be killed during burn containment practices. Conservation groups also want more assurances that qualified scientists and observers will be present at every burn to ensure that all turtles will be identified and removed before burns take place. The lawsuit, filed earlier this week, sought a temporary restraining order against BP to prevent the killing and harming of sea turtles.
In an effort to contain the massive oil spill, BP is conducting “controlled burns,” that involve using shrimp boats to corral the oil by dragging together fire-resistant booms and then lighting the enclosed “burn box” on fire. The “burn boxes” are approximately 60 to 100 feet in diameter. Endangered sea turtles, including Kemp’s ridleys, that inhabit the Gulf of Mexico are also being caught in the corrals being created by BP. This fact has been confirmed by Obama administration wildlife officials at the National Marine Fisheries Service. The turtle burning was exposed by shrimp boat captain Michael Ellis, whose comments were videotaped.
As of July 1, 594 stranded sea turtles had been collected in the Gulf area since the oil spill. Of those, 441 were already dead when they were found. Many more have likely been injured or killed but not found.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana in New Orleans by the law firm Meyer Gliztenstein & Crystal of Washington DC on behalf of Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network, Animal Welfare Institute and Animal Legal Defense Fund.