Gulf turtle eggs hatched; young released into Atlantic

The news for Gulf of Mexico turtles has not been good. Many sea turtles, including species in trouble, go to the Gulf to lay their eggs. This year, of course, oil has been a problem. Hundreds of turtles, many of which appear to have been exposed to oil, have been found debilitated or dead along the Gulf coast.

Last Friday, Planet Ark reports, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that  dozens of eggs of endangered sea turtle species had been moved to the Atlantic Coast. In one instance, a Kemp's ridley turtle nest with 60 eggs was driven from the Gulf Coast in Florida to the Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral, on the Atlantic Coast. They were incubated until they hatched, and then the young were released into the Atlantic.

As with all oiled wildlife, the question becomes one of where to release them so they are out of danger, but not in areas so unfamiliar to them that they will be unable to cope. As far as researchers know, many turtles hatched in the Gulf eventually wind up in the Atlantic anyway, where they drift in ocean currents far up the coast.

"The bigger question is, will they find their way back to the northern Gulf?" said Barbara Schroeder, national sea turtle coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, PlanetArk reported. "We don't have the answer to that, but we hope so."

Meanwhile, the National Research Council recently released a population status report about sea turtle species in U.S. waters. It found that the population status can't really be determined from current information. It recommended that the National Marine Fisheries Service and Fish and Wildlife Service develop a national plan to assess the populations, improve how they collect data and share it with other organizations, plus establish some kind of external review process. 

The service has a wealth of sea turtle information at its North Florida Ecological Services site.