October 26, 2011

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Last week, Dr. Earle spoke at the Go Blue Awards in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida on behalf of the Loggerhead Marinelife Center and also visited their nearby facility in Juno Beach.  Their Sea Turtle Hospital rehabilitates Loggerhead, Hawksbill, Green and occasionally Leatherback sea turtles including providing treatment for deeply embedded fishing hooks, plastic ingestion and entanglement, boat strikes and more. 
Over 25 years ago, long-time Juno Beach resident Eleanor Fletcher started what is now the Loggerhead Marinelife Center. Noticing an abundance of sea turtles nesting on the beach in spring and summer, she was curious about why so many hatchlings headed landward after hatching rather than back to sea and as a result, began some of the earliest research on sea turtles in the area. Juno Beach is now recognized as one of the most active nesting beaches in the world.  Their efforts have made a big difference in protecting and returning injured and stranded turtles to the sea.
The story of local nesting leatherback “Clover” is inspiring. She has been nesting in the area since 2003. When LMC biologists first found Clover, she was missing a rear flipper from what appeared to be a shark attack. This caused her moderate difficulty nesting. But when she returned in 2005, she was missing a portion of her other rear flipper. Finally, in 2007, Clover returned with no rear flippers at all. All of these injuries appeared to be due to shark bites. 

Sea turtles use their rear flippers to dig the chamber in which they place their eggs. Because Clover doesn’t understand that her rear flippers are missing, she tries to nest normally. When it comes time to drop her eggs, they end up on the surface of the sand behind and underneath her. Without assistance, Clover crushes her eggs in an attempt to camouflage her nest. When LMC biologists find Clover, they dig her egg chamber for her by sneaking up behind her as she is “digging.” So far this year, biologists have helped Clover nest six times. To see an amazing video of Clover nesting, click here.

Elsewhere, there is bad news for sea turtles – A move is underway in Hawaii to allow the killing of sea turtles as a “traditional” source of food.

With sea turtle numbers drastically reduced over what existed before human exploitation, their future existence depends on what we do right now.  Every turtle counts!

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One Comment

  • There are serious problems with legalizing take (apart from the obvious)..
    In Hawaii, most of the green sea turtles nest at French Frigate Shoals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, a low lying atoll whose highest point is 12 feet above sea level. Sea level rise has been identified as the greatest threat to these islands, and these nesting sites.
    Additionally, hunters would not eat turtles with tumors, leading to selective pressure on healthy ones.
    Our community is not thinking in these terms.
    It's a bad idea all the way around, and I am shocked that it is even being entertained by WESTPAC, given what we know about SLR.

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