Weekly Oil Spill Update: Burn Zones & Turtle Nests

As Connie is away for a bit Kerry and Adam have been charged with keeping the weekly updates going. So here we go.

Just how big is this oil spill? We received a great visual from one of our colleagues the other day. Click on this link, input your location, and see what happens.

Connie spoke about the turtle nests and fears of turtles in the burn zones. We have found some interesting articles detailing both topics. The concerns for sea turtles being affected during the controlled burns have become very public. BP is now placing observers, highly trained sea turtle rescuers, on the oil burn boats. The hope is that the observers will be able to sight and rescue sea turtles in the burn area before any burning or skimming occurs.

The below picture showing the controlled burns in the Gulf was taken by Chief Petty Officer John Kepsimelis, U.S. Coast Guard. See the photo in this USA TODAY slide show.

Connie mentioned the plans to relocate 70,000 sea turtle eggs form the coasts of Alabama and Florida's panhandle in the blog here. Relocating nests, which will mostly be loggerhead sea turtle nests is an extremely delicate process. Experts will excavate a nest by slowly and carefully digging, mostly by hand. In an effort to keep the environment of the egg as similar as possible to the natural nest, specially designed Styrofoam containers will be used to place the eggs in. Sand and the right amount of moisture will be placed around the eggs, and the temperature will be carefully monitored and controlled.

The plan is to then transport the eggs to a warehouse at Kennedy's Space Center in Florida. The eggs will be incubated there until the turtles hatch, and then the hatchlings will be released on the east coast of Florida. The risks of this process is high, but the risk of leaving the hatchlings to enter the Gulf and potentially become covered in and ingest oil is likely higher.

There is also debate that a possibly safer method would be to leave the nests as is and screen them to allow the eggs to hatch naturally. Then the hatchlings would be contained, collected and then transported to a safe release location. Hatchlings are not quite as delicate as the eggs, and this could also help reduce the risk of affecting sex ratios. It is hard to say what the best choice would be in this impossible situation.

Below are some pictures we found from the Coast Guard. It shows biologists from the Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge in Alabama relocating a nest. This nest was relocated because it was too close to the tide line. It is protocol to move the nest higher up on the beach. The new nest has to mimic the original nest as closely as possible. You can see how delicate the process is, and keep in mind this is only a short move compared to the relocation procedure that will begin in the next few weeks.

We will do our best to keep you informed while Connie is away!

~Adam and Kerry

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