The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Dr. Chris Pincetich, Sea Turtle Restoration Project (415) 663-8590 x102; cell (530) 220-3687; Carole Allen, Gulf Director, Sea Turtle Restoration Project (281) 444-6204, cell (281) 455-4415, Teri Shore, Turtle Island Restoration Network (415) 663-8590 x104;

Gulf Oil Industry Overhaul Needed to Protect Sea Turtles

Presidential commission blames BP, Haliburton, and Transocean for oil spill failures


The presidential panel investigating the causes of the massive BP oil
spill in the Gulf of Mexico concluded today that drastic changes
including stringent new environmental and safety requirements must be
made to avert another catastrophic offshore drilling accident.

Sea turtle advocates agree that mistakes made by BP, Transocean, and Haliburton
combined with flawed government oversight of the oil and gas industry
triggered the worst oil spill in U.S. history - and the most devastating
environmental disaster for endangered sea turtles and other marine life
in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Rescue of sea turtles and protected swimways
through the maze of oil rigs must be prioritized in oil and gas
regulations," said Dr. Chris Pincetich, marine biologist at Sea Turtle
Restoration Project, the environmental organization that forced BP to
stop burning turtles during the oil spill clean-up. "Until now sea
turtles have been an afterthought to oil drilling and spilling, but
hundreds of deaths and the poisoning of a generation of sea turtles
cannot be ignored."

The BP oil spill led to hundreds of endangered sea turtle deaths and oiled waters and beaches where loggerheads, Kemp's ridleys,
green turtles and even leatherbacks nest. The Sea Turtle Restoration
Project is advocating for the following changes to oil industry
regulations for oil spill prevention and response:

Sea Turtle protection from Oil and Gas:

Avoidance of sea turtle breeding, foraging and migration habitat for
any new or renewed oil drilling platforms. * Establishment of protected swimways through the Gulf of Mexico where new oil and gas development is prohibited and existing operations phased out.

Spill Response for Sea Turtles * Independent observers on all oil spill
response vessels to record wildlife sightings; * Sea turtle rescuers on
all cleanup vessel teams; * Increase the number of qualified wildlife
rescue teams on-call; * Establish a volunteer protocol for wildlife
rescue assistance. * Maintaining an effective level of search effort for
sea turtles and wildlife; * Endangered species prioritized for rescue
and rehabilitation; * Chemical dispersants and "controlled burns" banned
where endangered species are present.

Oil Spill Restoration * Funds set aside specifically for restoration of sea turtle nesting beaches and nearshore habitat. * Full cleanup of nesting beaches, oil free to a depth of 30 inches.

rescue of sea turtles was a bottle-neck. In the future, boat teams with
fishermen and biologists should be deployed quickly to target
endangered species rescue," says Dr. Chris Pincetich.

Sea turtles
in the Gulf of Mexico are threatened by the poisoning and habitat
degradation brought on by the BP oil spill and continued offshore oil
and gas development. Fisheries such as the Gulf of Mexico shrimp trawl
fleet have undergone major modifications in gear and management in
recent years to minimize deadly interactions with sea turtles, yet, the
offshore oil and gas industry have not made any systematic changes to
reduce their impacts to the Gulf's sea turtles and marine life.

offshore oil and gas industry have yet to make any systematic changes
to reduce their impacts to the Gulf's sea turtles and marine life.

During the BP spill, cleanup vessels performing "controlled burns" were
ignoring endangered sea turtles for over two months before sea turtle
protection groups including Sea Turtle Restoration Project organized a
legal challenge to save them. As a result of a lawsuit, BP halted
burning of the oil until independent, trained wildlife observer and
rescue teams were placed on the "controlled burn" task force vessels.

Sea Turtle Restoration Project also called for reduced fishing pressure
to allow ecosystem recovery, continued cleanup by BP, a halt to sand
dredging to build berms to block oil, an accurate
calculation of the total number of sea turtles estimated as killed in
the spill, impacts of submerged oil be assessed, sea turtle stranding
and recovery network improvements, and complete transparency of all
findings related to the toxicity of gulf seafood, contamination of the
environment, and the health of sea turtles in a report released last
year. Click here for the STRP BP Spill report.