Lawsuit Launched to Force BP and Coast Guard to Protect Turtles From Burning Alive

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Miyoko Sakashita, miyoko@biologicaldiversity.org, (415) 658-5308 
Todd Steiner, Turtle Island Restoration Network,  tsteiner@tirn.net, (415) 663-8590 x 103
Carole Allen, Turtle Island Restoration Network, (281) 444-0564

Lawsuit Launched to Force BP and Coast Guard to Protect Turtles From Burning Alive

SAN FRANCISCO - The Center for Biological Diversity
and Turtle Island Restoration
Network today officially notified BP and the U.S. Coast Guard of their
intent to
sue to stop the burning alive of endangered sea turtles in the chaotic
clean-up
efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. The letter is a prerequisite to filing a
lawsuit
under the Endangered Species Act.

“The
spill was tragically timed for sea turtles that are nesting in the Gulf
right
now,” said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director for the Center. “Newly
hatched sea
turtles are swimming out to sea and finding themselves in a mucky, oily
mess.
News that BP has blocked efforts to rescue trapped sea turtles before
they’re
burned alive in controlled burns is unacceptable.”

A
boat captain who had been rescuing sea turtles reported that BP started a
burn
operation before the rescue crew could survey the area and rescue the
turtles.
BP is using “controlled burns” in an attempt to contain the spill. Boats
create
a corral of oil by dragging together fire-resistant booms and then
lighting the
enclosed “burn box” on fire. If turtles are not removed from the area
before the
fire is lit, they are burned alive. The same Sargassum seaweed
mats that are
collecting oil also draw sea turtles, which use them for food and
shelter.
Unfortunately that leaves turtles, particularly young ones, vulnerable
to being
oiled and burned.

“BP
is burning turtles alive and it is cruel, heartless and a crime we can’t
and
won’t allow to continue,” said Todd Steiner, biologist and executive
director of
Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN). “Sea turtles were critically
endangered before BP created America’s worst
environmental catastrophe, and every effort possible must be taken to
rescue
endangered turtles from this oil spill. BP needs to reverse course and
help
double our efforts to rescue sea turtles, not prevent their
recovery.”

 “Kemp’s
ridleys have struggled back from near extinction; they deserve more than
dying
in purposefully set oil fires,” said Carole Allen, Gulf Director and
TIRN board
member.

Today’s
notice letter puts BP and federal agencies involved in the Deepwater
Horizon response on official
notice that their practices in the Gulf are resulting in the illegal and
deeply
inhumane deaths of threatened and endangered species, including Kemp’s
ridley
sea turtles. The letter asks BP and the Coast Guard to place qualified
observers
in the Gulf of Mexico who can survey for, and
rescue, endangered turtles and other wildlife.

There
is a concern that BP is limiting access to spill areas to suppress
information
about wildlife damages.
As
of today at least 429 sea turtles have been collected dead in the Gulf
area;
many more have likely been injured or killed but not found. In addition
to the
Kemp’s ridley, four other endangered sea turtle species are found in the

Gulf of Mexico: greens, loggerheads, hawksbills
and leatherbacks. They rely on areas throughout the Gulf of
Mexico for nesting, reproduction, feeding and migration. All of
these turtles are at risk from poisoning from oil and careless
controlled
burns.

More
than 150,000 people signed onto a petition calling on BP to stop
blocking
efforts to rescue sea turtles from the terribly painful death of burning
alive.
The petition was delivered to BP and the Coast Guard offices in
Louisiana on June 28 by
the Center and CREDO Action.

Click
here

for a photo of the Kemp’s ridley.

###

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

Share This Article

More in: