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Rescue Update from the Sea Turtle Conservancy

July 9, 2010

To everyone who cares about sea turtles and the marine environment, the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is painfully heartbreaking. As executive director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC), the oldest organization in the world dedicated to the study and protection of marine turtles, this disaster is especially discouraging to me. I personally have worked to protect sea turtles and their habitats for nearly two decades, and I am very concerned that much of the progress we have made in recovering these species could be undone as a result of this one terrible accident.

Of immediate concern is the fate of hundreds of sea turtle nests that are being deposited right now by nesting loggerhead turtles along the north Gulf coast of Florida and Alabama. Under normal circumstances, hatchlings from this coast would begin emerging from their nests after incubating for about 60 days and immediately swim out into the Gulf in search of floating mats of sargassum seaweed, where they find shelter and food for the first few years of life. Unfortunately, oil from the spill is accumulating in the same areas where the hatchlings would be heading. Conditions are so bad that there is very little chance any of this year’s hatchlings from the Florida Panhandle or Alabama would survive.

In response to this dire situation, federal and state officials, with input from outside experts such as the Sea Turtle Conservancy, have made a bold decision to intervene on a massive scale. An unprecedented plan is in motion to relocate all of the nests from this part of the Gulf Coast to an incubation facility set up at the Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s east coast. The idea is to release the hatchlings into the Atlantic, where they have a far greater chance of surviving.

The operation is being coordinated by capable and dedicated staff with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), National Marine Fisheries Service and Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. They are being assisted by a well-trained network of local sea turtle monitors from the Panhandle, as well as the Sea Turtle Conservancy and other contractors with years of experience working with sea turtles in Florida.

Each nest will be allowed to incubate in place until about the 50-day point, and then they will be carefully excavated and placed in specialized incubation containers. Sea Turtle Conservancy has been assisting with construction of the 1,500 or so modified coolers that will be used to hold and incubate the eggs. It is particularly encouraging that FedEx has stepped up to provide their expertise in shipping sensitive cargo in order to transport all of the eggs to the incubation site at the Space Center. FedEx has dedicated a climate-controlled truck and two full-time drivers who will continually pick up and transport containers of eggs that are ready to be shipped. The transfer process will continue for two or more months as all of the nests gradually reach the 50-day mark.

All of the agencies, organizations and people working on this relocation strategy are very dedicated to getting it right, and I think the program has a high probability of success. As an independent, nonprofit group dedicated to the protection of sea turtles, the Sea Turtle Conservancy is providing its expertise to the operation as needed. We are very supportive of the relocation plan and think the protocol now in place will minimize any potential risks associated with moving the nests and will give tens of thousands of sea turtle hatchlings a fighting chance at survival.

I and other staff members with the STC will be monitoring and participating in the relocation program over the next few months. I look forward to sharing my experiences and thoughts through this blog, and I invite you to learn more about the Sea Turtle Conservancy at

David Godfrey is Executive Director of the nonprofit Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC). Formerly known as the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, STC is the world’s oldest sea turtle research and conservation group. Founded in 1959 by Dr. Archie Carr—the world’s leading authority on sea turtles—the Florida-based STC continues a 50-year-long effort to study and protect sea turtles in the U.S. and around the world.

Godfrey has been involved professionally in environmental conservation for over 20 years. He has authored numerous articles on environmental matters, with an emphasis on coastal protection and sea turtles. He has participated in sea turtle research projects in six countries and has written and/or narrated documentaries and videos pertaining to sea turtle and coastal conservation issues. Godfrey led the effort to establish Florida’s sea turtle specialty license plate, which is now the main funding source for sea turtle protection in Florida. He is Chairman of the Florida Sea Turtle Grants Program, which awards financial support for research and conservation projects benefiting Florida sea turtles. He also is a member of the World Conservation Union’s Marine Turtle Specialist Group.

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    Frank Barnick says:

    I am very proud to be a part of a company (Fedex)that will provide resources to assist not only people in need but also endangered sea turtles. I pray we don’t destroy this planet faster than it can mend.

    Saundra Clark Kosar says:


    I just emailed you through your workplace. It is amazing that you cut through all the crap and got something done for the turtles. God bless you.

    There is a huge need to do this for the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle. The hatchlings from the Mexican nest area will all be released by the end of next week. Between the decreased numbers of eggs due to Hurricane Alex and the oil and dispersents in the Gulf and the fact that Kemp’s are already the most endangered sea turtle species, we need to do be proactive and retain some of the hatchlings/adults to protect them. But there is no organization that can get permits to do this. Please contact Sea Turle Inc in South Padre Island(the only other nest area for Kemp’s) and talk with the curator. There is so very little time left to save them.
    Thank you., Jeff George at #956-761-4511

    Thank you, SCK

    mary scheib says:

    i am so proud of my company right now. i love wildlife and everything in the natural world. This oil spill is a man made disaster of epic proportions and i have every hope that nothing like this is ever allowed to happen again. but then again that was my hope after the exxon valdez.

    steph heiliger says:

    i am really proud that fedex is taking part in this important issue as a result of the oil spill…there will be thousands of animals that will have to be rehomed ….i’m hoping other corperate leaders do their part, as fedex is, to protect the marine life in this evergrowing area…great job!!!

    Regina Watson says:

    Way to go fedex. Always proud of my company

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