Dying Sea Turtles Warn of Toxic Gulf

by Dennis Bernstein

Endangered Olive Ridley sea turtle (Photo: Greenpeace USA)

Scientists and environmentalists across the United States and around the globe have their fingers crossed that BP’s claim to have finally capped its runaway well, after three months, is true, and that the damage of history’s worst environmental disaster can now be assessed in finite terms.

Yet, it will take years, if not decades, to truly comprehend the extent of the devastation: the dead and damaged wildlife, the soiled beaches and marshes, and the huge swaths of the sea that may become dead zones, so polluted that fish and other animals can’t survive there.

Even as BP was announcing its alleged capping success, many more wounded animals were being spotted and oil was still splashing on shorelines across the Gulf. Just recently, oil surged into one of the largest sea-bird nesting areas along Louisiana’s coast near Raccoon Island.

Three hundred to four hundred more pelicans were spotted with oil, as well as hundreds of terns. Scientists say these visible blotches of oil mean death for the sea birds.

To date, it’s estimated that over 3,000 birds have been killed, 59 dolphins, at least one sperm whale, and more than 460 turtles. Indeed, perhaps the species most threatened by the tens of millions of gallons of oil and toxic dispersants is the giant prehistoric sea turtle.

Dr Christopher A. Pincetich, a marine biologist and toxicologist for the Turtle Island Restoration Network, is convinced that the BP oil spill has destroyed a “generation” of turtles.

“We’re working as fast as we can on several fronts,” Dr. Pincetich said in an interview from New Orleans. “Most urgent right now is the immediate rescue of more of the endangered sea turtles that are in the Gulf oil spill right now.”

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