Oh, the Humanity! Birds, Turtles and the Oil Spill

Day #8 of wildlife rescue response to the BP oil spill, and Oiled Bird #2 has been rescued.

That’s not to imply that there’s no threat to the bird population, however. It’s nesting season in the refuge. In response to the threat, the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command issued the following press release:


Due to heightened interest in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, media aircraft have been conducting low flights and landings on Breton National Wildlife Refuge’s Chandeleur Islands. These flights and landings threaten the very birds that the media are covering and that the public is concerned about.

Federal regulation prohibits flights and landings that disturb wildlife on refuges. …

The flights and landings frighten the birds, which include brown pelicans, reddish egrets and terns, many of whom are in their nesting season. This causes them to leave their nests, which exposes their eggs to predators such as sea gulls, and upsets the delicate ecological balance that the refuge is charged with maintaining. In some cases the birds become so upset they abandon their nests.

Then there’s the turtles. Twenty-three of them, mostly endangered Kemp’s Ridley turtles, washed ashore on the beach in Mississippi. To the chagrin of the journos and the enviros, necropsies failed to pin the blame on the oil spill. A local news article suggests the possibility of another man-made source of their destruction:

Dozens of dead young sea turtles have washed up on clean beaches, without any sign of oil on their bodies or in their bellies or lungs. Officials are investigating whether they drowned in shrimp nets.


A little background is in order: when the scope of the oil spill became apparent, officials opened the shrimp season a few days early so that shrimpers would have a chance to catch a few shrimp before the season had to be suspended. All shrimpers are required by law to have TEDs – turtle excluder devices – as part of their rigging, to prevent the endangered turtles from being hung up in their nets. The shrimpers believe that the TEDs limit their catch, so there would be a temptation to ditch the TED if one thought this might be the last chance to shrimp for a while. A drowned turtle in a shrimp net is of no use to anyone, and a significant liability to the shrimper without a TED. So the critter’s carcass goes overboard, and washes up on the beach.

And the oil company gets blamed, as per usual.

Cross-posted at VladEnBlog.


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