05 May 2010

Gulf Oil Spill - It's effect on the Sea Turtle

Sea turtle nesting season is one of our favorite times of year in Akumal. As oil continues to spill out in the Gulf of Mexico, it could very well impact the future nesting habitats of the loggerhead and green sea turtles that make their way to our beaches every year.

In a recent statement from the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, “Sea turtles are highly migratory—spending different life-history stages in different habitats—sea turtles are vulnerable to oil spills at all life stages: eggs on the beach, post-hatchlings and juveniles in the open ocean gyres, subadults in nearshore habitats, and adults migrating between nesting and foraging grounds and on the nesting beach. The areas under the biggest threat from the oil spill are also the most sensitive: the marshes, the estuaries, the places where life starts.”

Even if sea turtles avoid direct contact with oil slicks, eating contaminated food is a direct exposure path, and reduced food availability is an indirect exposure route. Oil can be trapped in the sediments of turtle grass beds, killing the seagrass, a significant component of green turtle diets.

Current efforts to stop the oil before it reaches US shores are heroic, but may not be enough. We have to hope for the best but prepare for the worst – for not only the sea turtle but the 400+ animals that are threatened by the spill.

See the growth and evolution of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, as viewed from space. Visit National Geographic’s Satellite Pictures: Gulf Oil Spill's Evolution

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