Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What Fresh Hell Is This: Sea Turtles Burned Alive by BP

Endangered sea turtles are being burned alive in BP's oil spill cleanup

They are called "controlled burns." Or "boom and burns."

As describes this oil spill "clean-up" practice, "Shrimp boats create a corral of oil by dragging together fire-resistant booms and then lighting the enclosed "burn box" on fire. If turtles are not removed from the area before the fire is lit, they are literally burned alive."

One of these turtles is the Kemp's Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii), a critically endangered species that is also the rarest sea turtle in the world. It is protected by the Endangered Species Act -- killing or harming one can result in criminal charges and up to $25,000 in fines per violation.

Conservation biologist Catherine Craig filmed an interview with sea turtle rescue boat captain Mike Ellis, who said that BP prevented him access to save the turtles before they were burned alive within the "boom and burn" operation.

"They ran us out of there and then they shut us down, they would not let us get back in there," said Ellis.

There have been over 150 recorded sea turtle deaths due to the spill since April 30. Most were Kemp's Ridleys, the only sea turtle species whose sole breeding grounds are located in the Gulf of Mexico.

But the burning of turtles leaves no remains to be recovered, nothing to be counted, no records to be kept. Michael Graham Richard of wonders, "Is BP trying to 'destroy the evidence' by burning it?"

"Since April, more than 5 million gallons of oil have been ignited in more than 165 burns," writes Laura Goldman on "No statistics are available as to the number of turtles and other marine creatures trapped and ignited in those burns. BP executives must be breathing a huge collective sigh of relief over that."

The Kemp's Ridley may be the rarest of the living descendants of the first sea turtles, who swam the Earth's oceans around 250 million years ago, but there is no doubt that it is a warrior, having survived decades of human activity-related threats, such as hunting, habitat loss, pollution and entanglement in shrimp nets.

Now, these tough, hard-shelled submariners face a new and particularly hellish human activity that burns them alive in oil. As Kemp's Ridleys teeter on the verge of extinction, BP is giving them a final, fiery push into oblivion.

  • Sign a letter telling BP to stop burning endangered sea turtles alive
  • Sign a PETA letter telling the attorneys general of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi to file charges of cruelty to animals against the BP executives who allowed this to happen and, because of their negligence, continue to let it go on
  • Sign a Sea Turtle Restoration Project (STRP) letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service urging them to immediately grant permission to the team forming under the direction of the STRP staff to lead additional boats to recover sea turtles from the oil spill, and to cover all costs of NGO-supported rescue operations out of the BP oil spill funds managed by Unified Command
  • Sign a petition urging President Obama to stop offshore oil drilling and demand a clean energy future
  • Find out how you can help with cleanup and rescue efforts
image: a loggerhead sea turtle caught in the oil slick (AP, Nicole Bengiveno)

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