Settlement Forces BP to Rescue Sea Turtles Before Oil Slicks Set on Fire

For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 
Contact: 

Miyoko Sakashita,
(415) 658-5308 or  miyoko@biologicaldiversity.

Settlement Forces BP to Rescue Sea Turtles Before Oil Slicks Set on Fire

Agreement Reached in Gulf to Prevent Sea Turtle Burning Deaths

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.  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 dead in the Gulf area since the
oil spill. Of those, 441 were dead when they were found and 153 were alive. 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.

Earlier this week, the Center for Biological
Diversity and CREDO Action delivered a petition with over 150,000 signatures to
BP and federal officials overseeing the clean up to stop blocking efforts to
rescue the sea turtles.  MoveOn.org has also joined the petition drive.

Click here for a photo of the Kemp’s ridley.

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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.

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