Good News for Alabama Sea Turtles and Dolphins!

Eight years ago, this month, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico, unleashing the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. That summer, BP oil killed hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, while more than 28,000 sea turtle eggs were relocated from their nests in Alabama and Florida to the Atlantic Coast where they could hatch on safer, unoiled beaches.

Today, we have great news. Alabama has chosen to spend over $7 million of the fines paid by BP and other responsible parties to help marine life, like sea turtles and dolphins, recover from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. A new draft restoration plan from the Alabama Trustee Implementation Group (made up of state and federal agencies) identifies 22 projects to restore wildlife and habitats damaged by the BP oil disaster. This plan makes it clear that Alabama places great value on their marine species.

I am especially excited to see seven of these projects for sea turtles and marine mammals. Both the sea turtle and marine mammal restoration projects include enhanced capacity for the stranding networks, which we know are critical to respond and rehabilitate injured and stranded animals. There are projects to increase education efforts and enhance enforcement of existing laws to better protect sea turtles and marine mammals. In addition, one of the projects includes a study to determine where beach lighting is most problematic to wildlife and how to reduce it. Beach lighting can be very dangerous for sea turtles, because when they hatch on the beach, they are guided into the water by the light of the moon, and artificial lighting can confuse them and even encourage them to crawl the wrong way.

Beyond reducing known sea turtle stressors like beach lighting and strandings, the Trustees took their plan one step further and funded a study to better understand sea turtle populations in coastal Alabama. This project is raising the bar for restoration planning, because it helps us understand where sea turtles are and how they’re using the environment. This helps scientists better understand what is causing sea turtle populations to decline, and how we can address that decline with specific management action. In other words, it helps us figure out how we can invest future restoration dollars that have the biggest impact on sea turtles. We praise the suite of projects identified for sea turtles in coastal Alabama, because they not only address known stressors but also set out to answer key questions about these animals that will help plan future restoration projects.

If you would like to weigh in on the draft restoration plan, comments are due by May 4th, and if you’re in Alabama and want to learn more the Trustee Implementation Group is holding a public meeting on April 18th. Find out more here.

Our work to restore the Gulf beyond the shore has only just begun. Speak up for fish and corals as well—ask the Trustees to support even more projects to ensure that our Gulf marine life recover from this disaster.

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