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Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill
News Articles
Date Source Article
October 19, 2010 Oil spill wildlife: How many were saved?
August 31, 2010 Endangered turtles released into Gulf
August 31, 2010 Mississippi's first lady releases four Kemp's Ridley sea turtles in Gulf waters
August 30, 2010 What a release: Four Kemp's Ridley turtles back in Sound
August 30, 2010 Mississippi first lady helps release Kemp's Ridley turtles
July 30, 2010 Scientists say BP dispersants increase toxicity of oil
July 29, 2010 Passic Valley Today Clerk's oil spill clean up collection an overwhelming success
July 28, 2010 Rescued turtles released into Mississippi waters
July 23, 2010 Hundreds of eggs relocated
July 22, 2010 Weather threatening to shutdown oil cleanup in Gulf
July 22, 2010 Oil spill suspected of bringing an unusual number of turtles to Mississippi Sound
July 21, 2010 Lack of dolphin deaths a marine mystery
July 20, 2010 Giant sea turtle rehabbed in Gulfport
July 18, 2010 SunHerald TV: Oil Spill Turtles
July 18, 2010 146 lb. Turtle Rescued
July 14, 2010 Animal autopsies in Gulf reveal only a mystery
July 14, 2010 Staff works to save oiled marine life
July 13, 2010 Life in the Gulf
July 2, 2010 Gulf oil Spill: The plight of the sea turtles
June 30, 2010 Volunteers rush to move turtle eggs from Gulf to Atlantic
June 26, 2010 Rescued turtles go to Sea World for more rehab
June 25, 2010 Gulf fishing nets not oil may be culprit in initial sea turtle deaths
June 25, 2010 Dolphins beached on gulf shores
June 25, 2010 Rescued endangered turtles going to Disney World and Sea World
June 23, 2010 Worry Underwater: Oxygen levels drop as oil continues to flow
June 22, 2010 Saving the Gulf's turtles
June 15, 2010 Oil hasn't yet reached Biloxi beaches
June 14, 2010 Dr. Moby Solangi talks about testimony
June 12, 2010 Sea turtles' breeding tradition threatened
June 12, 2010 Saving the Gulf's wildlife
June 11, 2010 Oil Spill Far Worse Than Original Estimates
June 11, 2010 Sea camps even more significant with oil threat in Gulf
June 11, 2010 More dead turtles collected on Miss. Gulf Coast
June 11, 2010 21 dead turtles wash ashore in Harrison county
June 10, 2010 Dead turtles wash ashore
June 9, 2010 Two young sea turtles wash ashore in Harrison county
June 8, 2010 Director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies testifies before Senate panel
June 7, 2010 Institute director testifies to House
May 23, 2010 Wicker: Institute is prepared fro aftermath
May 23, 2010 Senator Roger Wicker made his first visit to the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies
May 18, 2010 Three Kemp's Ridley turtles found alive on Coast beaches
May 18, 2010 SUNHERALD TV: Sea turtles rescued
May 18, 2010 Turtles rehabbing at Gulfport facility
May 11, 2010 Oil spill injures marine life
May 11, 2010 Dead marine animals being tested; oil not suspected as killer
May 6, 2010 Dr. Moby Solangi on the oil's impact on marine life
May 6, 2010 Saving marine wildlife from oil spill
May 5, 2010 Teams prepare for influx of oil injured marine life
May 4, 2010 Dead turtles wash up in Gulf of Mexico; no link yet to oil spill
May 4, 2010 Sos dal pronto soccorso per delfini e tartarughe
May 4, 2010 Scientists study possible impact of oil spill on marine life
May 4, 2010 Culf Coast watches, waits for path of oil spill
May 4, 2010 No oil found on 35 dead turtles in Gulf of Mexico
May 4, 2010 No oil found on 29 dead turtles in Gulf of Mexico
May 3, 2010 Turtles washing up in Gulf, but no link extablished yet to oil slick
May 3, 2010 Miss. coast town has little to do, but wait
May 3, 2010 Oil spill could devastate wildlife
May 3, 2010 Weather problems for US oil spill
May 3, 2010 Oil spill's potential effect on Gulf's Wildlife
May 3, 2010 Oil slick continues to approach the Gulf Coast shores
May 3, 2010 Gulf oil spill: 23 dead sea turtles wash ashore in Mississippi
May 3, 2010 Winds holding Gulf oil spill offshore
May 3, 2010 No evidence of oil found in dead sea turtles, other oil spill news from the Gulf Coast
May 3, 2010 Massive oil slick threatens U.S. Gulf Coast
May 2, 2010 Volunteer training begins to help protect wildlife
May 2, 2010 Dead wildlife turning up in Pass Christian
May 2, 2010 Dead sea turtles washing up along Gulf Coast
May 2, 2010 Scientists, volunteers prepare for marine animal rescue effort in Gulf oil spill disaster
May 1, 2010 Weather hampers preparations for animal resuce; rehabiliation center to train volunteers
May 1, 2010 20 sea turtles found dead along Miss. beaches
May 1, 2010 Associated Press photos of sea turtle at IMMS
May 1, 2010 Dead turtles wash up in Pass Christian
May 1, 2010 Volunteers train for oil spill impact on animals
May 1, 2010 Locals line up to help Coast cleanup
April 30, 2010 Miss. center preparing to handle oily mammals
April 30, 2010 Biologist: Spill could be the worst environmental disaster in the United States
April 30, 2010 Gulfport Institute prepares to rescue marine animals harmed in oil slick
April 30, 2010 Institute for Marine Mammal Studies prepares to search for injured animals
April 27, 2010 CTV News Channel: Moby Solangi on the threats
April 23, 2010 Gulfport marine rescuers prepare to respond to oil rig disaster
April 23, 2010 Oil spill could affect marine mammals
Oil Spill Wildlife: How Many Were Saved?

CNN Story by Rob Marciano
October 19, 2010


 


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Endangered Turtles Released Into Gulf
Associated Press Article
August 31, 2010

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) - With the help of Mississippi first lady Marsha Barbour, four endangered Kemp's Ridley sea turtles have been released back into Gulf waters.

Barbour joined officials from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies on Monday in returning the turtles to the Mississippi Sound.

IMMS director Moby Solangi says the hooks of pier fishermen caught 3 of the turtles and a shrimp vessel captured the fourth. He says the institute's veterinarians have been caring for the turtles since their captures in May and June.

The Kemp's Ridley is the most endangered of all seven species of sea turtles in the world.


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Mississippi's First Lady Releases Four Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles in Gulf
The Mississippi Press Article by Cherie Ward
August 31, 2010

GULFPORT, Miss. -- Mississippi's first lady Marsha Barbour sat on the back of a boat with her legs dangling in the Mississippi Sound Monday morning and released four rehabilitated endangered turtles affected by the Gulf oil spill.

Barbour clapped and cheered when the last juvenile Kemp's Ridley sea turtle was returned to the waters just off Deer Island, which experts called the marine mammals' natural environment.

"I really do love animals and as first lady I get a lot of opportunities that most don't get, and this stuff I love," Barbour said. "It's my honor to be here."

The hooks of pier fishermen caught three of the turtles and a shrimp vessel captured the fourth, said Moby Solangi, president and executive director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport. The institute's veterinarians have been caring for the turtles since their captures in May and June.

Although each of the turtles released Monday was in critical condition when it arrived at the institute, none were oiled. Solangi said they were starved and looking for food.

"Nobody ever expected such an incident as the oil spill," Solangi said. "We've had two emergencies in five years that we've had to respond to. The worst natural disaster in U.S. history -- Hurricane Katrina, and then the oil spill."

Solangi said the northern Gulf of Mexico is a critical habitat with about 400 species of wildlife and is the nursing grounds for dolphins and other endangered marine life.

"We've done everything we've had to do with the help of state and federal agencies," Solangi said. "We've had a great team of people that joined together in this unprecedented event."

Alexis Gutierrez, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said when the world looks back on the Gulf oil spill relief efforts, "what you'll see is the number of different agencies -- state, federal and local -- coming together and breaking new ground everyday."

Trudy Fisher, director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, said the oil spill has not allowed too many opportunities such as Monday's turtle release.

"And, most importantly, they are being released back into Mississippi waters," Fisher said.

Bill Walker, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, said there are three stages to events such as the oil spill.

"A beginning, middle and end," Walker said. "As we move toward the end there is no threat of new oil in the Gulf of Mexico."

Prior to Monday's release, Solangi said 24 Mississippi turtles were released in Florida waters.

"With fisheries now open, I feel that it's safe to return these sea turtles back to their home," Solangi said. "We are happy to see things returning to normal."

Solangi said a total of 34 turtles have been rescued in Mississippi waters since the oil well began gushing into the Gulf of Mexico in April. Fisherman caught 30 of those turtles, a shrimp vessel captured one, and three washed ashore with illnesses. Two of the ill turtles have died, Solangi said.

Solangi said 259 dead sea turtles have been recovered from Mississippi beaches and 29 dead marine mammals have been retrieved from Mississippi and Alabama shores


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What a Release: Four Healed Kemp's Ridley Tutles Back in Sound
SunHerald Article by Michael Newsom
August 30, 2010

GULFPORT — Four endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles were released Monday after being healed at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies.

Mississippi first lady Marsha Barbour helped release the turtles — which had been caught by fishermen in May and June — back into the Mississippi Sound. Of the four, three were treated for hook wounds after being caught at local piers. The fourth had been in what officials said was critical condition after being revived on a shrimp boat.

IMMS President and Executive Director Moby Solangi believes since Mississippi waters didn’t have as much oil as other states, more wildlife sought refuge from the crude here. He said officials have spotted more marine life near shore this year than what’s typical and they’ve helped many more turtles than they normally do. Most years, the Institute treats between one and three live sea turtles, but IMMS officials said they have rescued and rehabilitated over 40 this year.

Now that Mississippi waters have been reopened and officials have deemed the seafood safe, Solangi said IMMS officials decided it was time to put the animals back into their natural habitat. It’s a sign of progress here, he said.

“We are happy to see things returning to normal,” Solangi said.

The Kemp’s Ridley is the most endangered of all seven species of sea turtles in the world. Since the April 20 Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion, which started the BP oil gusher, 259 dead turtles have been recovered from Mississippi shores, and 29 dead marine mammals have been found in Mississippi and Alabama, the IMMS said.

It said most of the dead turtles were Kemp’s Ridley, which had no visible signs of oil, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is still conducting tests to determine the causes of those deaths.

NOAA also said it has recovered 500 turtles throughout the Gulf of Mexico since the gusher began and about 400 of them showed signs of being in contact with the oil. NOAA rescue teams concentrated their efforts on areas where there was the most oil, working out of Venice, La.; Orange Beach, Ala.; and Destin, Fla.

Following a news conference with IMMS, NOAA and other officials, the first lady boarded a boat with IMMS and other officials and headed out to the Sound to put the turtles back in the water. Barbour said one of the perks of her job is that she occasionally gets to work with animals, something she enjoys. She has helped release bass into the Pascagoula River and also held rare black bear cubs. She said she was thrilled to be helping release the four juvenile Kemp’s Ridley turtles.

“I love marine animals and everything about anything that God has made,” Barbour said.


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Mississippi First Lady Helps Release Kemp's Ridley Turtles
WLOX Story by Steve Phillips
August 30, 2010


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Scientists Say BP Dispersants Increase Toxicity of Oil
NBC Nightly News Story by Lisa Myers
July 30, 2010


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Clerk's Oil Spill Clean Up Collection an Overwhelming Success
Passic Valley Today story by Matthew Kadosh
July 29, 2010

LITTLE FALLS – Township deputy Clerk Cynthia Meyer and her friend Donelle Bright, who works with the Township of Mahwah, organized a campaign to gather supplies to be donated to clean up wildlife impacted by the Gulf Coast oil spill.

The response was overwhelming and they are looking for a way to ship the items to the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS).

"Initially, we began this project thinking we'd get around four to five boxes at most," Meyer said in an e-mail. "However, because of the warm-heartedness of the people we know, work with, and the local communities in Bergen and Passaic Counties, we were able to collect much more than that."

Meyer said that, along with Bright, she started the collection for towels, sheets, garbage bags, disposable gloves and bottles of Dawn dish soap to help with the oil spill clean up.

"Since April, anywhere from 500,000 to 4.2 million gallons of oil have leaked every day, not only destroying local businesses, but also detrimentally affecting sensitive ecosystems," Meyer said.

The materials will go the IMMS' Project 8 – Gulf Coast Oil Spill Relief program, which will distribute the materials to organizations doing the cleanups in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida. Those organizations include the Audubon Society, the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, and Save the Seabirds, Inc.

Meyer said they have a garage full of the items waiting to be sent, but not the resources to send them.

"We have been able to collect a small amount of money through individual donations, but we're far from being able to pay for this stuff to be sent," she said. Meyer said they plan to ask FedEx and UPS for their assistance in sending the items and they have e-mailed New York radio station Z-100 to ask for assistance.

Meyer thanked Little Falls and Mahwah residents for their help, those at the Brookchester Apartments in New Milford, Boy Scout Troop 180 of Bergenfield, Kover Up, employees of Vornado Realty in Paramus and all who donated.

Mayor Michael DeFrancisci described the collection as successful.

"Everyone came forward and it was well received," he said.

Many of the items were donated during a vigil of concern township residents held in June on the steps of the municipal building to express their solidarity with residents impacted by oil spill, said Arnold Korotkin, a prominent community organizer.

"It was great that a dozen plus Little Falls residents held a vigil of concern for residents impacted by the oil spill on the Gulf Coast and as part of that vigil items were donated for Project 8," he said.


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Rescued Turtles Released into MS Waters
WLOX story by Trang Pham Bui
July 28, 2010


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Hundreds of Eggs Relocated
National Geographic story by Fritz Faerber
July 23, 201 0

 


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Weather Threatening to Shutdown Oil Cleanup in Gulf
CBS story by Whit Johnson
July 22, 2010


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Oil Spill Suspected of Bringing an Unusual Number of Turtles to MS Sound
Mississippi Press Article by Harlen Kirgan
July 22, 2010

BILOXI, Miss.  -- The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may be the reason for the appearance of a large number of turtles in the Mississippi Sound, experts said.

"We are seeing sea turtles in numbers in the Mississippi Sound that we've never seen before," said Dale Diaz, director of fisheries for the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.

Moby Solangi, president and executive director of the Institute for Marine Mammals Studies at Gulfport, said Mississippi waters were largely free of oil until Hurricane Alex, which struck Mexico. The turtles made their way here to escape the oil that was spreading from the broken well about 100 miles south of the state, he said.

"I think it is the diminishing habitat," Solangi said.

"What we are also seeing is many of these turtles are going after the bait of fishermen, which is pretty much something they normally don't do. And, they are getting caught in hooks."

Solangi said the turtles tangling with fishermen "meant they were hungry, out of their original habitat."

Diaz said the IMMS veterinarian told him two weeks ago there are normally two to three turtles each year treated after being hooked. This year the IMMS has handled 30 hooked turtles, he said.

"So, the volume of turtles in here is just unbelievable," Diaz said.

The oil spill is the only difference between this year and previous years, he said. "For a long time we were in a pocket of clean water and there had been some oil south of us in Louisiana and east of us in Alabama and Florida."

About 95 percent of the turtles that have been found are Kemp's Ridley, a critically endangered species, Diaz said.

Diaz said 263 dead turtles have been found in the state's waters since the April 20 spill. They are among 467 found dead across the Gulf states, he said.

There have been 685 turtles captured across the Gulf and 171 of those had some evidence of interaction with the oil, he said.

Solangi said IMMS has handled about 240 dead turtles and about 40 live turtles. Four of the live turtles had been affected by oil.

Of the dead turtles, Solangi said it could not be determined if they had been in contact with oil. The turtles had been dead a few days prior to washing up on the coast, he said.

"It is going to take some time for things to recover even after the oil well is capped," Solangi. Oil is in the sediment and subsurface, he said.

Oil also may be in the food web, he said.

"All of those have to be studied," Solangi said.


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Lack of Dolphin Deaths a Marine Mystery
WWL Story by Katie Moore
July 21, 2010



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Giant Sea Turtle Rehabbed in Gulfport
WLOX Story by Steve Phillips
July 20, 2010



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SunHerald TV: Oil Spill Turtles
SunHerald Video
July 18, 2010



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146lb. Turtle Rescued
SunHerald Article by Pam Firmin
July 18, 2010

A 146-pound loggerhead sea turtle with an eye injury arrived from the Chandeleur Islands for rehabilitation about 2:30 a.m. Saturday at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport.

On Sunday, a team from IMMS also was investigating the death of a baby bottle nose dolphin, much of it eaten by sharks and found washed up on the sand in Long Beach. It had been dead about two days. Reports of a second dead porpoise could not be verified.

Taking good news with the bad, IMMS president Moby Solangi praised the foresight of Mississippi senators who created the federally funded IMMS.

“We’re the only stranding network in a two-and-a-half state region,” he said. “This was designed for this purpose: Rescue, rehabilitation, conservation. Now we have fulfilled it.”

The large loggerhead, about half grown at age 40, joins nine more sea turtles IMMS is currently treating. These include eight juveniles that arrived covered in oil from Alabama waters, plus a 100-pound loggerhead that arrived with lethargy from Mississippi waters around Chandeleur, where Louisiana is putting up berms to protect Louisiana marshes, Solangi said.

“In this entire episode,” Solangi said, “we have not seen the giant turtles. Finally we have two.”

Both of the loggerheads are doing fairly well, said Tim Hoffland, director of animal care, who’s worked with Solangi for 18 years, including at the old Marine Life in Gulfport.

IMMS now has four out of the five species of sea turtles that live in the Gulf. They are hawksbills, Kemps Ridleys, loggerheads and a Green. “In my entire career,” Solangi said, “I’ve never seen all five or even four in one place.”

The missing species is the leatherneck, he said.

“What’s happening is as their habitats shrink because of the oil, they are coming closer to shore looking for food and go after the bait of fishermen sitting on piers,” Solangi said. “The majority of the Kemps Ridleys had hooks in their mouths.”

When healthy, the turtles will be sent to Florida and released, probably into the Gulf. Solangi said three shipments, totaling 23 turtles, have already been sent. He said IMMS has seen about 250 dead turtles come through. Of the 35 live ones, all but one has survived.

Sunday afternoon, volunteers and staff were feeding, cleaning water tanks, giving antibiotic injections, drawing blood and, for the big guy that came in this weekend, putting cream in his injured eye. The juveniles were released for some exercise in a larger pool, while staff eyed their progress.

“The hawksbill has got a little air problem. He’s floating too much,” observed Hoffland.

A contest of wills went on between the baby loggerhead that had come in previously and Becky Winstead, research assistant, who persistently held out a torn shrimp that the turtle nibbled begrudgingly.

“He wants squid,” Winstead said, “and the vet said he can’t have squid because it has very little nutritional value. He’s very dramatic. It’s like me force-feeding my kids broccoli.”

Earlier Sunday, a truckload of donations arrived from Kimberly Davio in Pensacola, Fla., who had collected them from across the country. One box was signed by six people in Baltimore and read, ”inside are 500 shirts. We are so happy to have found a way to help!”


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Animal Autopsies in Gulf Reveal Only a Mystery
New York Times Article by Shaila Dewan
July 14, 2010

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle lay belly-up on the metal autopsy table, as pallid as split-pea soup but for the bright orange X spray-painted on its shell, proof that it had been counted as part of the Gulf of Mexico’s continuing “unusual mortality event.”

Under the practiced knife of Dr. Brian Stacy, a veterinary pathologist who estimates that he has dissected close to 1,000 turtles over the course of his career, the specimen began to reveal its secrets: First, as the breastplate was lifted away, a mass of shriveled organs in the puddle of stinking red liquid that is produced as decomposition advances. Next, the fat reserves indicating good health. Then, as Dr. Stacy sliced open the esophagus, the most revealing clue: a morsel of shrimp, the last thing the turtle ate.

“You don’t see shrimp consumed as part of the normal diet” of Kemp’s ridleys, Dr. Stacy said.

This turtle, found floating in the Mississippi Sound on June 18, is one of hundreds of dead creatures collected along the Gulf Coast since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded. Swabbed for oil, tagged and wrapped in plastic “body bags” sealed with evidence tape, the carcasses — many times the number normally found at this time of year — are piling up in freezer trucks stationed along the coast, waiting for scientists like Dr. Stacy, who works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to begin the process of determining what killed them.

Despite an obvious suspect, oil, the answer is far from clear. The vast majority of the dead animals that have been found — 1,866 birds, 463 turtles, 59 dolphins and one sperm whale — show no visible signs of oil contamination. Much of the evidence in the turtle cases points, in fact, to shrimping or other commercial fishing, but other suspects include oil fumes, oiled food, the dispersants used to break up the oil or even disease.

The efforts to finger a culprit — or culprits — amount to a vast investigation the likes of which “CSI” has never seen. The trail of evidence leads from marine patrols in Mississippi, where more than half the dead turtles have been found, to a toxicology lab in Lubbock, Tex., to this animal autopsy room at the University of Florida in Gainesville. And instead of the fingerprint analysis and security camera video used in human homicides, the veterinary detectives are relying on shrimp boat data recorders and chromatographic spectrum analysis that can tell if the oil residue found in an animal has the same “chemical signature” as BP crude.

The outcome will help determine how many millions BP will pay in civil and criminal penalties — which are far higher for endangered animals like sea turtles — and provide a wealth of information about the little-known effects of oil on protected species in the Gulf.

“It is terribly important to know, in the big scheme of things, why something died,” said Moby Solangi, the director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Miss., where the initial turtle necropsies and some dolphin necropsies were performed.

“We might be doing what we can to address the issues of today and manage the risk,” he said. “But for tomorrow, we need to know what actually happened.”

Searching for a Smoking Gun

In a laboratory at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Jennifer Cole, a graduate student, was slicing a precious chunk of living dolphin tissue into 0.3-millimeter sections.

Supervised by Céline Godard-Codding, an endangered species toxicologist, Ms. Cole was studying cytochrome P450 1A1, an enzyme that breaks down hydrocarbons.

Tissue samples are one of the only ways to learn more about poisonous substances in marine mammals and sea turtles, whose protected status limits the type of studies that can be done — researchers cannot do experiments to determine how much oil exposure the animals can withstand.

Oil — inhaled or ingested — can cause brain lesions, pneumonia, kidney damage, stress and death. Scientists working on the BP spill have seen oil-mired animals that are suffering from extreme exhaustion and hyperthermia, with the floating crude reaching temperatures above 130 degrees, Dr. Stacy said.

Far less is known about the effects of dispersants, either by themselves or mixed with oil, though almost two million gallons of the chemicals have been used in the BP spill.

Studies show that dispersants, which break down oil into tiny droplets and can also break down cell membranes, make oil more toxic for some animals, like baby birds. And the solvents they contain can break down red blood cells, causing hemorrhaging. At least one fresh dolphin carcass found in the Gulf was bleeding from the mouth and blowhole, according to Lori Deangelis, a dolphin tour operator in Perdido Bay.

Investigators plan to take skin and mouth swabs, stomach contents, slices of organ tissue and vials of bile from animals that have died and test them for disease and hydrocarbons, as well as for dispersants, before a final report on the cause of death is written. But no samples have yet been sent to labs, because scientists are still evaluating what type of tests will prove most useful.

Jacqueline Savitz, a marine biologist with Oceana, an ocean conservation group, said there was no excuse for any delay in testing.

“It’s absolutely urgent that it should be done immediately,” she said, because the findings could influence response measures like BP’s experimental use of dispersants underwater.

In the meantime, at places like the Texas Tech institute, the oil spill has set off a mad scramble to fill in the gaps in knowledge. In one laboratory, jars of BP crude in various stages of weathering await analysis to determine their relative toxicity. In another lab, graduate students paint precise amounts of oil on incubating duck eggs. Tanks of fiddler crabs awaited a shipment of Corexit 9500, the dispersant being used by BP in the Gulf.

In the end, Dr. Godard-Codding said, scientists will not find a single smoking gun. The evidence — results of laboratory tests, population counts, assessments of how well oil-drenched animals survive after rehabilitation — will all be circumstantial.

Suspicions Fall on Shrimpers

When Lt. Donald Armes of the Mississippi Marine Patrol heard about the rash of dead sea turtles littering the state’s shores, his first thought was not of oil but of shrimp boats.

“Right off the bat, you figure somebody’s gear was wrong,” he said recently, after patrolling for shrimpers in the Mississippi Sound, a few days before floating islands of oil forced officials to close it. By gear, Lieutenant Armes meant turtle excluder devices, which shrimp trawlers are supposed to have. Without them, trawls can be one of the biggest dangers for turtles, which can get trapped in the nets and drown. The devices provide an escape hatch. Another kind of shrimp net, called a skimmer, is not required to have an excluder device — instead, the length of time the skimmers can be dragged is limited by law to give trapped turtles a chance to come up for air.

When shrimp season began in Mississippi on June 3, the marine patrol inspected all the boats and found no violations involving the excluders, Lieutenant Armes said. But on June 6, 12 dead turtles were found in Mississippi in a single day. Similar spikes have occurred when parts of Louisiana waters were opened to shrimpers, and since most of the waters in the spill area have closed, the turtle deaths have subsided.

Shrimpers emerged as a prime suspect in the NOAA investigation when, after a round of turtle necropsies in early May, Dr. Stacy announced that more than half the carcasses had sediment in the airways or lungs — evidence of drowning. The only plausible explanation for such a high number of drowning deaths, he said, was, as he put it, “fisheries interaction.”

Environmentalists saw the findings as confirmation of their suspicions that shrimpers, taking advantage of the fact that the Coast Guard and other inspectors were busy with the oil spill, had disabled their turtle excluder devices.

The devices are so contentious that Louisiana law has long forbidden its wildlife and fisheries agents to enforce federal regulations on the devices. Last month, Gov. Bobby Jindal vetoed legislation that would have finally lifted the ban, citing the “challenges and issues currently facing our fishermen.” By contrast, Mississippi officials strengthened turtle protections by decreasing the allowable tow time for skimmers, posting observers on boats, and sending out pamphlets on turtle resuscitation.

Officials in both states say that turtles die in shrimp season even when shrimpers follow the law, from boat strikes and other accidents. They also say there have been far fewer shrimpers working since the spill, in part because many have hired out their boats to BP. That should mean fewer, not more, turtle deaths.

But there has also been illegal activity. In Louisiana, agents have seized more than 20,000 pounds of shrimp and issued more than 350 citations to commercial fishermen working in waters closed because of the oil spill. In Mississippi in June, three skimmer boats were caught exceeding legal tow times — one just hours after the shrimper had been given a handout explaining that the maximum time had been reduced, Lieutenant Armes said.

As for the piece of shrimp that Dr. Stacy found lodged in the turtle’s throat during the necropsy, it, too, pointed to shrimpers. A turtle is normally not quick enough to catch shrimp, Dr. Stacy said. Unless, of course, it is caught in a net with them.

Diagnosing Difficulties

In the necropsy lab in Gainesville, Dr. Stacy was slitting open the turtle’s delicate windpipe, looking for traces of sediment, a tell-tale sign of drowning. He finds none there, so he examines a crinkled papery membrane barely recognizable as lungs. Nothing.

“Drowning can be a difficult diagnosis,” he said. He has requested data that will show the level of commercial fishing in the area. But, he cautioned, “A lot of times our evidence is fairly indirect.”

In a sense, the necropsies so far have posed more questions than answers, demonstrating how oil has become just another variable in an already complex ecosystem. Late in June, a dolphin examined at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport showed signs of emaciation, but its belly was full of fish, suggesting that it may have gorged itself after a period of difficulty finding food.

Another dolphin, its ribs broken, was hit by a boat, a catastrophe that dolphins are normally nimble enough to avoid. The veterinarian, Dr. Connie Chevis, found a tarlike substance in the dolphin’s throat. The substance will be analyzed to see if it is oil, but one theory is that the animal could have been disoriented by oil exposure, which can have a narcotic effect, rendering it incapable of avoiding a boat strike. Ms. Deangelis said the dolphins on her recent tours have been “acting like they’ve had three martinis.”

The results raise questions about oil’s indirect effects. Is crude, for example, responsible for what anecdotal reports say is a steep increase in turtles in Mississippi and Louisiana waters? The population of Kemp’s ridleys has been rebounding thanks to years of protective measures. But some scientists have speculated that the spill is driving wildlife toward the coast, crowding areas where there is more boat traffic and setting the stage for fatal accidents.

In a normal year, one or two turtles might get snagged on the hooks of recreational fishermen at the piers. Now, the marine mammal institute in Gulfport is caring for 30 such turtles, a possible indication that they are desperate for food. In recent weeks, Dr. Chevis said, she has begun to see elevated white blood cell counts and signs of pneumonia in rescued turtles, both of which are symptoms of oil exposure, but could easily have other explanations.

In Gainesville, Dr. Stacy returned the jumbled remains of the turtle that ate the shrimp to its plastic wrapper and sent it back to the freezer. There, it will be stored indefinitely, just one piece of evidence among thousands.


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Staff Works to Save Oiled Marine Life
Fox10 Mobile report by Matt Barrentine and Hal Scheurich
July 14, 2010




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Life in the Gulf
ABC World News with Dianne Sawyer report by Matt Gutman
July 13, 2010




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Gulf Oil Spill: The Plight of the Sea Turtle
Huffington Post Article by Dan Froomkin
July 2, 2010


The seemingly endless oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is killing countless sea animals and sea birds, large and small. But there is no story as tragic as the plight of the sea turtles.

These magnificent, graceful, creatures are particularly vulnerable to the effects of oil in the water, which weakens their eggs, chokes and poisons their young, and leaves adults addled and starving.

In the case of the most endangered species, the Kemp's ridley turtle, hatchlings leaving their nests in Mexico this season are swimming right into the heart of the spill area, where their instinct to seek shelter and prey among floating vegetation is betraying them by leading them straight to thick clots of oil and oil-soaked seaweed.

There, instead of finding security and food, they are getting poisoned, trapped and asphyxiated.

And if that weren't tragic enough, it turns out that shrimp boats hired by BP to corral floating oil with booms and set it on fire have been burning hundreds if not thousands of the young turtles alive.

A GLIMPSE INTO THE UNSEEN

Despite the heart-wrenching photos of oil-covered animals along the Gulf Coast shoreline, marine scientists say the greater carnage remains offshore and, as yet, largely unnoticed.Due to the extraordinary depth of the blown-out well and the unprecedented application of 1.6 million gallons of dispersants, much if not most of the oil (and gas, as well) still lurks unseen in the water column -- out of sight, but potentially wiping out vast populations of plankton, fish, and even larger marine animals.

The images of dead and suffering sea turtles (see the slideshow, below) are a rare, visible example of that offshore and underwater devastation.

Their plight offers a glimpse of what is happening where we can't see.

ABOUT THE SEA TURTLES

Sea turtles are long-lived animals, often with lifespans of three decades or more, and as a species have been swimming the oceans for more than 100 million years.

All five of the sea turtle species that make their home in the Gulf are listed as either "endangered" or "threatened". Several approached the brink of extinction, primarily due to the destruction of their nesting areas and the use of indiscriminate fishing nets.

For three decades, scientist and environmentalists and volunteers have successfully fought to protect sea turtles --- and have dramatically reversed the declines in population. It's been one of the great environmental success stories of.our time.

But this oil spill is killing them in potentially catastrophic numbers.

Sarah L. Milton, a sea-turtle physiologist at Florida Atlantic University, and co-author of a 2003 NOAA report on oil toxicity and its impacts on sea turtles, told the Huffington Post it couldn't have happened at a worse time.

"The adults, both males and females, will be just offshore for breeding," she explained. "Oil on the beaches will affect females going ashore to nest. Studies have shown that oil on the eggs leads to reduced nest success and increased deformities. Hatchlings that emerge will have to cross the oiled beaches to get to the water, and then swim through what is out there.

"Proportionately, the oil is likely to have a much greater effect on the hatchlings, just due to their smaller size -- swallowing a tar ball will do far worse damage to a tiny gut than a large one."

Adults are far from immune, however. At all ages, for instance, turtles are indiscriminate eaters, and they inhale deeply before diving for food, two behaviors that increase their risk of fatal exposure. Many of them right now are foraging for food along the Northern Gulf coast, where the oil is currently concentrated.

A new report from the environmental group Oceana identifies some other risks:

*\Oil or dispersants on the sea turtle's skin and body can cause skin irritation, chemical burns,and infections. Oil exposure for just 4 days can cause sea turtles' skin to continually fall off in sheets. This condition persists even after they are removed and treated from the exposure.


* Inhalation of volatile petroleum compounds or dispersants can damage the respiratory tract and lead to diseases such as pneumonia.

* Ingesting oil or dispersants may cause injury to the gastrointestinal tract, which may affect the animals' ability to absorb or digest foods....

* Chemicals that are inhaled or ingested may damage liver, kidney, and brain function, cause anemia and immune suppression, or lead to reproductive failure or death.

Moby Solangi, director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Miss., told Huffpost that more than 200 dead turtles have been recovered along the Mississippi coast since the spill.

Many of them, oddly enough, had fish-hooks in their mouths and guts. But that, Solangi said, is a clue to how dramatically their behavior has changed due to the oil spill.

"As the spill started to escalate, these animals started moving closer to the shoreline," he said. Out of their normal habitats, they lunged for anything that looked like food -- including fishing bait.

And now, with the oil having arrived on Mississippi's coasts, even the turtles that had avoided it so far are suffering from its direct effects.

Oil, Solangi said, disrupts sea turtles' chemoreceptors -- in other words, their senses.

"It affects their ability to find prey," Solangi said. "It affects their ability to identify where their habitat is, or to understand movement."

Solangi concluded: "They're confused and they're hungry."

NOAA'S RESPONSE

As of the end of June, the federal government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that 583 sea turtles had been found in the spill area thus far. The great majority were either found dead or died soon after, leaving 136 to be taken to rehabilitation centers.

The biggest success story has been NOAA's turtle-rescue vessels, which have captured about 90 live turtles -- most of them Kemp ridleys. But the rescue effort is dwarfed by the scale of the disaster.

First of all, NOAA didn't even get its turtle rescue boats out onto the Gulf until late May, a month or so after the BP well first started spewing millions of gallons of oil a day into the pristine waters. And even now, there are only three such boats being deployed.

Blair Witherington, a sea turtle research scientist for Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission -- who's been working on one of those boats -- told the Huffington Post that he recently charted all the areas where NOAA boats have been working, and "it's just a group of little squiggles off in one tiny area of the spill zone."

Witherington said dozens of vessels should be out every day. But, he said, "I'm coming to realize that there are so many logistical and bureaucratic roadblocks between the people who want to get things done and getting those things done."

Many of those roadblocks, he said, "are not understandable to me."

And then there is the matter of the burning.

In mid-June, public reports started to emerge that the "controlled burns" BP was using to remove oil from the surface of the Gulf were also incinerating untold numbers of young turtles.

NOAA scientists at the time were rescuing turtles -- dozens of them -- from precisely the same kinds of floating "oil lines" and "weed lines" that BP-hired shrimp boats were corralling with boom and then setting on fire.

In a June 13 YouTube video, Louisiana charter boat captain Mike Ellis told marine biologist Catherine Craig about how his boat, carrying NOAA turtle rescuers, was turned away from what's become known as the "burn box" -- the section of the Gulf designated for burning on a given day.

"They kept trying to ran us out of there and then they shut us down, they would not let us get back in there. In the meantime, how many turtles got caught up in there and just burned?" Ellis asked.

"They drag a boom between two boats, and whatever's caught up, they circle it together and catch it on fire. Once the turtles are in it, they can't get out. I mean they come up, it looks, they look like they're chocolate covered. "

Ellis also submitted a declaration for a lawsuit filed June 30, in which three animal-welfare groups asked a federal district judge in New Orleans judge to put an immediate stop to the burns.

"[B]ased on my years of experience in the Gulf of Mexico, it is almost certain that endangered turtles were present in the burn boxes that I observed on the same oil line where our rescue team saved ten endangered turtles, and that these turtles will continue to be present in similar burn boxes that continue to be used by BP as part of its practice of controlled burns," Ellis declared.

Bob Hoffman, the endangered species branch chief for NOAA's Southeast regional office, told the Huffington Post on Wednesday that the burns had been temporarily curtailed because of high seas, and that when they resume, NOAA will now make sure each "burn team" -- made up of two shrimp boats hauling booms and an "igniter" boat -- includes a trained observer who will be able to rescue turtles before they are incinerated.

The animal-welfare groups declared themselves satisfied on Friday, withdrawing their request for an immediate restraining order. "BP and the Coast Guard have further agreed to establish a standard operating protocol for the burns, and to convene a group of scientists to determine the necessary elements of the protocol to ensure the safety of the turtles," the groups announced Friday.

The first NOAA observer actually went out with a burn team last week, and reported seeing no turtles at all. But, Hoffman said: "I think that there were turtles in the area that were being burned. I'm not going to deny that.... When they pop up into the thick oil, it's like a fly on flypaper, they just can't get out of it."

Hoffman said there have been more than 200 controlled burns since the oil well blew up in late April. And no one knows how many turtles that could have been saved instead were cremated alive.

But based on the data the observers collect going forward, Hoffman said, an estimate of how many turtles were killed by fire "will be part of what we do when we do the biological opinion at the end of this project." That's the Natural Resource Damage Assessment that NOAA is compiling, and that will be used to make sure that the responsible party -- in this case, BP -- pays what is required to compensate the public for its losses.

DESPERATE MEASURES

Most Kemp ridley turtles nest in Mexico, but many of the other Gulf of Mexico turtles nest along the U.S. coastline. And rather than watch a whole generation of hatchlings hurtle into the muck and die, a consortium of federal and state wildlife groups on June 26 announced a plan to collect about 70,000 mostly loggerhead turtle eggs in up to 800 nests buried in the sand across Florida Panhandle and Alabama beaches -- and release the hatchlings along Florida's central Atlantic coast.

It's a radical move, and one for which many marine scientists have only modest hopes.

"In developing this plan we realized early on that our expectations for success needed to be realistic," U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service national sea turtle coordinator Sandy MacPherson said in a statement. "On the one hand the activities identified in the protocols are extraordinary and would never be supportable under normal conditions. However, taking no action would likely result in the loss of all of this year's Northern Gulf of Mexico hatchlings."

Milton, the turtle physiologist from FAU, said similar, smaller scale moves have resulted in "reduced hatching success." But, she told HuffPost: "reduced hatch success is better than sending hatchlings into the Gulf."

Institute director Solangi is similarly sober about his expectations. "This is the only thing that is left to do," he said. Putting animals in new habitats is a risky proposition. But, he said, "the option is between death -- or give them a chance."

THE PROGNOSIS

Carole Allen is Gulf office director for the Sea Turtle Restoration Project. She's been working to save turtles since 1982.

"They've been around since the dinosaurs, and I feel we have a moral responsibility not to kill things that were on the earth long before we were," she said. "They're a wonderful animal, and they have survived so many threats."

The effects of the spill are "worse probably than anybody dreamed, particularly for the Kemp's ridleys," she said. "It is a tremendous setback. It's just really unbelievable. I can't believe that just a few months ago, the news was so encouraging, and the government was predicting that the Kemp's ridleys could be downlisted from endangered to threatened in five years."

The immediate dangers are horrible enough, she said. "But what is the long-term effect on the Gulf of Mexico if all this oil goes to the bottom?.. The food supply of these turtles is right where the oil is sinking into the estuaries and the marshes," she said.

"When they plug that well, it's going to help. But it's certainly not going to go away. And we may not know for years just how profound the effect is."

Milton, the FAU turtle expert, shared Allen's concerns. "There are two long term effects that worry me because they are unknown, which are oil in the foodchain and the potential effects of the dispersants, which is likely to effect the first problem," she told HuffPost.

"The potential for toxic buildup of oil byproducts in the foodchain is likely to be quite large, and we don't know enough about turtle physiology to know what the long term effects of bioaccumulation will be. And we know nothing about the dispersants at all, except that by busting the oil up into smaller bits and making it sink, it' s all the more likely to enter the foodchain at the level of invertebrate prey."

One thing that's clear to marine scientists is that the turtle casualties we've seen so far only represent a small fraction of the toll these noble creatures are suffering -- both now and for years to come.

Solangi, for instance, notes that the hundreds of dead turtles in Mississippi were all retrieved from beaches -- and most of the state's shoreline consists of inaccessible marshes, estuaries, and barrier islands. For each turtle retrieved, he said, there are several times as many that remain undiscovered.

The Oceana reports notes that many dead and injured turtles will never be found by search crews, "because currents often carry the carcasses out to sea or carcasses can sink or be eaten by predators."

And yet none of the scientists or turtle rescuers interviewed by the Huffington Post has given up hope.

"I've got to be optimistic about it," said Allen, the 28-year veteran of turtle advocacy. "The Gulf is big and I'm hoping that there are some places where the turtles are where they can stay out of trouble."

"I would say turtles probably have been hit the worst of the endangered species," said NOAA's Hoffman. "But I don't think it's going to nullify the whole recovery. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, anyway."

"I'm a scientist. I try to remain objective," said Witherington, the Florida Fish and Wildlife turtle expert. "Sometimes I start to dwell on the tragedy, and then I realize I'm just getting depressed," he said. "And I understand the job at hand, and that is to rescue these turtles."

For years, Witherington has been studying the juvenile phase of the sea-turtles' lives, watching them as they travel the open ocean, congregating around floating seaweed and other debris -- the very behavior that's now killing them.

"They live in a beautiful place," Witherington said. "The animals are interesting; the place where they live is interesting. It's beautiful. And now all that has changed."


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Volunteers Rush to Move Turtle Eggs from Gulf to Atlantic
ABC World News with Diane Sawyer report by Matt Guttman
June 30, 2010




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Rescued Turtles go to Sea World for More Rehab
SunHerald Article by Karen Nelson
June 26, 2010


BILOXI — Nine Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles rescued from the Mississippi Sound were flown Friday to SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla., where they will continue to receive care and eventually be released.

And the state Department of Marine Resources issued a warning to fishermen and boaters Friday there are more turtles in the Sound, trying to escape the oil spill, so chances of hooking them or otherwise injuring them have increased. All sea turtles in Mississippi waters are threatened or endangered.

Gregory Smith with SeaWorld said the nine rescued turtles touched down at about 1 p.m. at Orlando Executive Airport, and crews took them to rehabilitation tanks at SeaWorld.

Aquarium specialists said Kemp’s Ridleys are solitary animals and do not interact with each other or other turtle species. That’s one reason they were sent to SeaWorld, Smith said; each will have his or her own separate pool.

The turtles have been receiving care at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport for fishing-line and fish-hook injuries. SeaWorld is taking them so the IMMS can make room for animals injured by the oil spill.

The nine transported Friday were in stable condition as they left Gulfport and arrived without incident, Smith said. The goal is for SeaWorld to eventually release them back into the wild.

They were moved with the help of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the New Orleans law firm of Gauthier, Houghtaling and Williams, which donated a private jet. A marine biologist was on board with the turtles.

SeaWorld is one of the few organizations with the expertise to tend to the special needs of Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, Smith said.

“We’ve rescued more than 300 sea turtles this year alone,” he said, many of them turtles that were stunned by the cold during an unseasonably cold January.

As the oil moves closer to shore in Mississippi, the state DMR Web site was set to educate fishermen on how to deal with sea turtles they might encounter.

Fishermen are urged to use the information to guide them in disengaging a sea turtle from their fishing gear.

The DMR said it is important these animals be returned to their natural environment with as little stress as possible.

If more assistance is needed, such as for sea turtles with serious cuts, ingested or deeply embedded hooks, or if a fisherman observes a stranded sea turtle, the DMR urged people to contact the IMMS at 1-888-SOS-DOLPHIN (1-888-767-3657), or call BP Deepwater Horizon Response at 1-866-557-1401.

DMR guidelines are at www.dmr.ms.gov.



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Gulf Fishing Nets Not Oil May be Culprit in Initial Sea Turtle Deaths
LA Times Article by Kim Murphy
June 25, 2010


Reporting from Seattle —

Of the hundreds of sea turtles found dead along the Gulf Coast since the Deepwater Horizon oil-rig disaster, the majority examined so far appear to have died by drowning or aspirating sediment from the seafloor, a federal fisheries official said Thursday.

Early findings suggest that many of the endangered turtles may have died because they were getting caught in fishing nets, not the — at least in the immediate aftermath of the accident.

Investigators suspect that a last-minute shrimping season authorized after the April 20 blowout — and immediately before the first major wave of turtle deaths — could have led to the animals becoming trapped in trawlers' nets.

But authorities have not ruled out the somewhat more remote possibility that a toxic algae bloom could have paralyzed the turtles and caused them to drown.

And Michael Ziccardi, a UC Davis veterinarian who leads the sea turtle and marine mammal oil spill response in the Gulf of Mexico, emphasized that necropsies have been conducted only on the first wave of turtles that washed up dead after the oil spill began.

"I would say that from the results of that first batch of animals, oiling does not seem to be a primary factor in their deaths. But they may still have been exposed, and it could have been a contributing factor. We don't want to rule anything out," Ziccardi said.

Barbara Schroeder, sea turtle coordinator for the National Marine Fisheries Service, said authorities had examined 67 turtle carcasses, 40 of them intact enough to conduct a full initial necropsy. Of those, 21 "showed various degrees of aspiration of black sediment into the respiratory system," she said.

"There was no gross evidence of any significant infectious or underlying disease process as a cause of the strandings," she said. "Drowning and asphyxia from sediment aspiration are primary considerations for the immediate cause of death for almost all animals for which complete examination was possible."

The findings do not necessarily exonerate the oil spill. Many turtles covered heavily in oil probably sank to the bottom of the sea, scientists say. Others could have been weakened by ingesting oil or oil-soaked food.

Ziccardi said additional toxicology tests over the next few weeks would determine whether algae poisonings could account for the drownings.

"Ultimately, drowning is the primary factor in at least these 21 turtles. But the cause of that, whether it's forced submergence through some type of human interaction, is yet to be determined," he said.

Shrimp-trawler nets have long been a cause of accidental sea turtle drownings, but in recent years trawlers have installed escape hatches in their nets to allow turtles to escape. Scientists worry that the oil spill may have caused many fishermen to close the devices to catch as many shrimp as possible.

"It's one of the questions that's being asked, because these first few groups of turtles started coming in after the shrimping season was opened in Louisiana" on April 29, said Moby Solangi, director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Miss., where a number of the dead turtles were taken.

In all, 411 dead turtles have been recovered since the oil spill began, and 128 have been taken in alive, many of them covered in oil. A large number of the dead turtles are Kemp's Ridley turtles, an endangered species that lives most of its life in the gulf.


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Dolphins Beached on Gulf Shores
ABC Video by Matt Guttman
June 25, 2010




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Rescued Endangered Turtles Going to Disney World
WLOX Video by Trang Pham-Bui
June 25, 2010




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Worry Underwater: Oxygen Levels Drop as Oil Continues to Flow
ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, by Matt Gutman and Sadie Bass
June 23, 2010




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Saving the Gulf's Turtles
CNN report by Rob Marciano
June 22, 2010




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Oil Hasn't Yet Reached Biloxi Beaches
FOX8 New Orleans report by Jennifer Van Vrancken
June 15, 2010




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Dr. Moby Solangi Talks About Testimony
WLOX
June 14, 2010




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Sea Turtles' Breeding Tradition Threatened
LA Times Article by Kim Murphy
June 12, 2010


Reporting from Gulf Shores, Ala —
Each summer, a ritual millions of years old unfolds on this beach, next to the high-rise condos and beach chairs, the T-shirt shops and the Hooters across the road. A 300-pound loggerhead turtle drags herself out of the water for the first time since her birth, probably on the same beach, 18 years ago.

Under the moonlight, she kicks a 2-foot-deep hole into the sand, drops in a gleaming heap of eggs, covers it and then lumbers back out to sea. Two months later, 100 or more tiny turtles will scratch their way up through the sand, glimpse the shine of the moon and stars on the water that serves as some kind of celestial GPS, and head for the sea.

Fishermen's nets, children with sand shovels, confusing waterfront lights and pollution have plundered the sea turtles, leaving all five species that inhabit the Gulf of Mexico endangered or threatened. Now they face what may be the most serious threat of all: millions of gallons of spilled oil, much of it in the waters they must navigate to reach their Alabama nesting beaches.

More than 350 turtles have been found dead or foundering along the Gulf Coast since the April 20 well blowout, a number wildlife biologists find alarming. At least 62 turtles have been found covered in oil. Rescuers in Gulfport, Miss., on Thursday were called to collect 20 turtle carcasses, the highest daily number they have ever recorded. Researchers say there is no way of knowing how many more turtles have perished at sea.

"Before, we didn't deal much with dead turtles. The calls we'd get were few and far between," said Tim Hoffland, director of animal care at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport.

"But since this oil spill, it's just gone berserk," Hoffland said. "I'm getting calls from my people saying they can't even walk a quarter-mile on the beach without running into dead turtles. It's crazy."

The turtle deaths pose a complex forensics mystery for scientists, many of whom say they are not ready to blame it all on the oil spill. Many of the stranded turtles, for example — five times the number seen in recent years — have been caught by fishing hooks. Toxicology tests will try to determine whether a toxic algae bloom may have killed some of the animals.

Many researchers say the spill could have unleashed a tangled web of threats that is killing the turtles even without swathing them in oil.

Some suspect shrimping boats — unleashed recently for what many fishermen feared could be their last chance to harvest before oil kills off or contaminates their catch — may have harmed the turtles in their eagerness. It's possible they dispensed with the required openings in their nets and inadvertently trapped turtles, leaving them unable to surface for air and causing them to drown.

Oil or dispersants may have poisoned the turtles or the fish and crabs they rely on for food; the turtles then may have been driven toward fishing bait along the piers, resulting in the large number of hookings.

In a little more than half of the roughly 70 necropsies performed so far, there has been evidence of either acute toxicosis — of unexplained origins — or drowning, said Michael Ziccardi, director of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network at UC Davis, who has been working in the field to help diagnose the deaths.

"What we're doing is a CSI for sea turtles. We're taking all of that information and pursuing the clues to try to see why these animals are dying," he said.

So important are their findings — illegal fishing, for example, could carry criminal penalties — that the turtle carcasses are being marked with evidence tags and kept under lock and key in a refrigerated trucking container at the Gulfport marine mammal facility until they can be picked up by government scientists.

Though turtle strandings around the world are relatively common, the number on the Gulf Coast has averaged only 47 a year over the last five years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The significant increase this year raises an uncertainty: How much of the bigger reported number is due to the larger number of people on the beach looking for troubled animals?

Here on the white beaches of Alabama, there are typically far fewer sea turtle nests than the tens of thousands in Florida. The loggerheads that make their way here are so threatened by the bustling resort development that volunteers with a group called Share the Beach patrol the 47 miles of sand at dawn each morning. They look for new nests and fence them off with posts, tape and warning signs — an effort that has won ready cooperation from residents and tourists.

Mike Reynolds, a real estate agent and auctioneer from Gulf Shores who heads the group, said he fears there are already signs that fewer turtles have made their way toward shore through the oil and tar balls.

"By this time of year, we should have 11 nests. We have six," he said one morning last week as he motored in a dune buggy down the beach, looking for the long, sliding track known as a "crawl" that shows a female turtle has made her way onto the beach to deposit her eggs.

Reynolds said the volunteers began their work eight years ago to counteract the devastating effect of development on the newly hatched sea turtles, which were increasingly turning toward the urban lights on shore rather than the safe glint of starlight on the sea.

"Back in the late '90s, we lost tens of thousands of turtles," Reynolds said. "They'd start going to the light; they'd end up getting dehydrated in the dunes, foxes would eat them, coyotes would eat them, and you'd drive down the road and you'd find squished baby sea turtles."

Since then, local officials have passed an ordinance minimizing lights on the beach during hatching season. Just before the babies emerge, volunteers dig a deep trench from the nest directly to the sea.

But in what is normally a busy nesting season, sticky globs of oil have marred the beach. Sargassum seaweed, a favorite habitat for young turtles, has washed up soaked with oil. The last nest laid on the beach, on June 3, came exactly one day before the first waves of oil showed up in Gulf Shores.

Are the turtles merely slow this year, Reynolds wonders? Or unable to make it through the oil? Or dead?

The volunteers — a postal carrier, an office manager, a teacher, a retired transportation specialist — are motivated by a growing fear, and a lingering sense of obligation: Whatever primordial impulse drives these slow, heavy turtles toward their shores must be honored.

"These turtles circumvent the globe, and no matter where they go, 18 or 20 years after they were born, they're driven to come back to this beach to nest. It doesn't matter if it's oiled, or if it's got too much light on it, or too many people or too much trash," Reynolds said. "So we can have our houses here, have our condos, get our suntans, as long as we remember this is an important habitat for an ancient creature that doesn't have a choice.


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Saving the Gulf's Wildlife
Good Morning America
June 12, 2010




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Oil Spill Far Worse Than Original Estimates
ABC7 New York report by N.J.Burkett
June 11, 2010




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Sea Camp Even More Significant with Oil Threat in Gulf
WOLX Video
June 11, 2010




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More Dead Turtles Collected on Miss. Gulf Coast
Associated Press Article
June 11, 2010


GULFPORT, Miss. -- A spokeswoman says the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies received reports of 20 dead turtles Thursday along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Megan Broadway says crews were dispatched to Biloxi and Gulfport to pick them up. It was not immediately clear whether the turtles' deaths were caused by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Broadway says dead turtles collected by the institute are turned over to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for testing.

Oil has been gushing into the gulf since an underwater well ruptured south of Louisiana on April 20. Broadway says between April 20 and Wednesday, 119 dead turtles had been collected along the Mississippi coast.


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21 Dead Turtles Wash Ashore in Harrison County
SunHerald Article by Mary Perez
June 11, 2010


GULFPORT — Unprecedented numbers of dead turtles were scooped from the beaches in Harrison County on Thursday afternoon and lugged away in black plastic bags.

“This is the largest number we’ve ever had to respond to in a single day,” said Mobi Solangi, director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport. The IMMS teams couldn’t collect all 21 turtles reported dead, but will be back on the beaches today.

“It could be a spike due to the shrimp season,” he said. The turtles are under a lot of pressure to move closer to the Mississippi Coast and away from the oil spill. He said the turtles now are more concentrated in Mississippi waters and with shrimp season under way, they could be impacted by the fishery.

The 21 turtles found dead Thursday are in addition to the 119 collected by IMMS, largely in Mississippi, since the Deepwater Horizon oil-rig blowout 52 days ago. Research assistant Megan Broadway said most were Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles and didn’t have visible signs of oil.

Solangi said his staff hadn’t had time yet to test for oil on the turtles found Thursday.

The institute has had some success stories. Two baby turtles — a hawksbill and a loggerhead — rescued in Gulf Shores, Ala., were brought to IMMS in Gulfport on Saturday covered with oil. Broadway said they were now clean, but remain in rehabilitation there until the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration decides their fate. Other turtles have been sent to Florida until they are able to be released.

“Everyone pretty much agrees that they should not be released in water contaminated with oil,” she said.

Five of the world’s seven species of sea turtles spend part of their lives in the Gulf of Mexico, according to Oceana, the world’s largest international ocean-conservation organization, and all are on the U.S. “threatened” or “endangered” list.

Solangi said the dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico should be able to escape some of the dangers from the oil spill.

“The dolphins can move much longer distances than the turtles,” he said.



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Dead Turtles Wash Ashore
SunHerald Article by Mary Perez
June 10, 2010


BILOXI — Three volunteers scooped up dead turtles along the beach in Harrison County today and lugged them away in black garbage bags for removal.

“We picked up about a dozen turtles today,” said Moby Solangi, director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies. They were found in several locations and none of the turtles were found alive, he said.

Groups of sunbathers and a few swimmers at the beach near the Edgewater Mall, paid little attention to the scene as the volunteers bagged a turtle, a red helicopter flew low along the shoreline and a national news satellite truck drove down U.S. 90.



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Two Young Sea Turtles Wash Ashore in Harrison County
SunHerald Article by Karen Nelson
June 9, 2010


GULFPORT — Two young sea turtles pulled from Alabama waters, covered with oil, have been cleaned and were recovering in Gulfport on Tuesday.

The yearling sea turtles, each about six inches long, were found last week when that state was wrestling with oil threatening its shorelines.

They are the first sea turtles treated in Mississippi that are confirmed victims of oil contamination.

The little Loggerhead was pulled from Perdido Bay on Thursday and the Hawksbill from Gulf Shores, Ala., on Saturday.

They also had oil in their mouths, so experts are watching them eat and treating them for possible ingestion of oil, said Meghan Broadway, spokeswoman for the Institute for Marine Mammals Studies. The institute’s sea turtle rehabilitation program is the nearest one to Alabama, Broadway said.

Workers washed the oil off both turtles. On Tuesday the Loggerhead was eating, was active and was considered in good condition; the Hawksbill was active, but still not eating. It is considered in guarded condition.

The young turtles are in little pools, where they can be monitored.

Broadway said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials brought them to Gulfport.

Also this week five of the Kemp’s Ridley turtles the institute has been treating since the BP spill began in late April were released in Florida. Broadway said those endangered sea turtles were not believed to have been oiled. They are among 14 the institute has treated since late April, an unusually high number for this time of the year, she said.

Delphine Vanderpool, an expert at the institute, said the two new turtles have mesmerized the staff.

“They’re very cute,” Vanderpool said, and considerably smaller than what the institute is used to. It usually deals with Kemp’s Ridleys, which are two to three times larger.


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Director of the IMMS Testifies Before Senate Panel
WOLX Video by Meggan Gray
June 8, 2010




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Institute Director Testifies to House
SunHerald Article
June 7, 2010


Moby Solangi, executive director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, told a House subcommittee Monday that the BP oil spill and dispersants used on it will affect not only the ecosystem, but also the livelihoods of fishermen and those in the tourism business.

Solangi, who completed doctoral research on the effect of Louisiana crude oil on fishes, said the Gulf of Mexico and adjacent waterways are home to one of the largest dolphin populations in the United States. He believes the oil spill’s impact on dolphins and their habitats warrant continued study, as the health of dolphins will indicate much about the environment’s health.

Solangi also said IMMS is the only organization in Mississippi or Alabama capable of caring for sick or injured marine mammals. Solangi joined the widows of two Deepwater Horizon oil rig workers, along with a chemist and a commercial fisherman from Louisiana, in testifying before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in Chalmette, La.


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Wicker: Institute is Prepared for Aftermath
SunHerald Article by Robin Fitzgerald
May 23, 2010



GULFPORT — U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker witnessed emergency medical treatment on a sea turtle Sunday in a visit to see if the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies is prepared to deal with one of the hazards posed by the Gulf oil spill.

Afterward, he called the Institute “a treasure for the coastal community.”

“I think it is a good thing for the public that the Institute is there and is prepared for an environmental and ecological problem such as this,” said Wicker, R-Miss.

“We hope that we don’t have a lot of illnesses among our marine mammals, but it may very well be that it will move our way. Just from the research standpoint, the mammals they have tested so far have no oil toxicity, and that information itself is helpful.”

Institute President Moby Solangi said the turtle is a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, an endangered species, brought to Gulfport from Alabama by wildlife and fisheries personnel.

“It was emaciated and dehydrated and underwent surgery,” Solangi said. “Like the other five sea turtles we have, it had a hook in it. It looks like there’s some shortage of food out there. Generally, when turtles can’t find other food, they go after the bait of fishermen.”

The Institute also is nursing a dolphin back to health.

Wicker, a member of the Commerce committee, visited the Institute in follow-up to concerns from Congressional hearings Tuesday.

“This is certainly a state-of-the-art facility,” Wicker said.

His visit came hours after a three-foot chunk of Styrofoam was found on the beach in Biloxi. It washed ashore near Rodenberg Avenue.

Rupert Lacy of the Harrison County Emergency Management Agency said the chunk will be analyzed to confirm if it is debris from the Deepwater Horizon explosion of April 20. Debris washing ashore in Mississippi has been as long as 15 feet.

Hundreds of beachgoers enjoyed Mississippi’s shoreline Sunday in sharp contrast to southeast Louisiana’s oil-soaked barrier islands, where workers in rubber boots scraped and raked beaches and bagged up oil-soaked sand.

Workers based at staging areas in Biloxi, Pascagoula and Pass Christian continue to walk the beach to look for signs of oil, Lacy said.

“It’s very low-key,” he said. “Everything that can be done to protect our shoreline is being done.”

A few dead fish were spotted along the beach in Gulfport and Waveland over the weekend, but officials said that’s not uncommon this time of year.

Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said 12 hours of diagnostic tests must be completed before the “top kill” plan can be tried to stop oil from spewing into the Gulf.

“It has to be a daylight operation,” Landry said Sunday, referring to safety issues.

BP plans to start the “top kill” — pumping a thick liquid into the leak and adding cement — on Tuesday. Landry said any delays in testing could delay the attempt until Wednesday.


Top of Page
Senator Roger Wicker Made His First Visit to IMMS
WLOX Video by Krystal Allan
May 23, 2010


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Three Kemp's Ridley Turtles Found Alive on Coast Beaches
WLOX Article
May 18, 2010

The Institute for Marine Mammals Studies reports today that three Kemp's Ridley turtles have been found alive on the Coast and are at the Institute in Gulfport.

The turtles were found in Waveland and Bay St. Louis over the last couple of days and are in rehabilitation at IMMS, Director Moby Solangi told the Sun Herald.

The three are the only turtles that have been found alive. There have been 77 found dead on South Mississippi beaches in the past few weeks.

Kemp's Ridley are considered critically endagered sea turtles. The species is the smallest of the sea turtles, reaching two to three feet at maturity.

No visible oil interaction has been found on any of the turtles examined at IMMS, Solangi said.

Read more about this story in Wednesday's Sun Herald.


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SUNHERALD TV: Sea Turtles Rescued
SunHerald Video by John Fitzhugh
May 18, 2010



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Turtles Rehabbing at Gulfport Facility
WLOX Article and Video by Trang Pham-Bui
May 18, 2010


GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - One turtle eagerly chased a tiny crab around a plastic tank.  But his friend in another tank, needed some extra coaxing to try the fresh shrimp. Meanwhile, a third turtle was also learning to eat properly.

"She hasn't been eating here," said a staff member who was tending to the turtles.

All three are Kemps Ridley turtles and are between two to three years old.  Just days ago, the endangered reptiles were struggling to stay alive on the beaches of Bay St. Louis and Waveland.

"Different people called, and we were able to send our team and recover them," said Moby Solangi, with the Institute for Marine Mammals Studies. "They all had hooks in them. We've taken the hooks. We've taken x-rays, blood samples, and we are rehabilitating them. And they are looking wonderful. We're glad that we're able to save at least three of them."

Solangi and his staff at the Gulfport facility are trying to help the animals regain their strength, so they can return to the wild. At a time when more than 75 turtles have washed ashore in South Mississippi, Solangi said it was encouraging to find the few survivors.

"A very unique opportunity," Solangi said. "I've been in this business 30 years and have never seen them feed directly, and it's amazing to see how they feed."

With the recent influx of turtles, the facility has had to make some changes. A building on the east side of the campus was originally built to house sea lions. Now, it's been converted into a turtle rehabilitation center.

Solangi said if more turtles are found alive, his facility can accommodate up to 100 injured animals.

"I think people are much more aware of this. Thanks to WLOX and others, that have put out the word that if you do see something, call us, and we'll take care of them," said Solangi.

If you notice any injured wildlife, you can contact the IMMS by calling (888) 767-3657.

On Tuesday, NOAA reported that since the oil spill, there have been 162 sea turtle strandings or deaths along the entire gulf coast region. Officials say that is up significantly compared to years past. However, they caution that the higher number could be due to the fact that more people are combing the beaches looking for stranded animals.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.


Top of Page

Oil Spill Injures Marine Life
WHBQ Fox 13 Memphis Video by Melissa Scheffler
May 11, 2010


 


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Dead Marine Animals Being Tested; Oil Not Suspected as Killer
WLOX Article
May 11, 2010


GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Dr. Moby Solangi with the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) said reports of dead marine life have slowed down some in the last few days. But WLOX viewers continue to send in pictures from all across the coast.

Michelle Allee sent us a shot of a dead turtle that washed up in Pass Christian Tuesday morning near Menge Avenue.

IMMS is testing 60 dead sea turtles that have washed up along the Gulf shoreline in the last three weeks. Most of those turtles are the endangered Kemps Ridley Sea Turtles.

Dustin Parker took a photo of the dead fish floating in Bayou Chico next to the Pascagoula Yacht Club. The pictures are alarming, but officials with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality cautioned Monday that the fish they've tested have not been killed by oil. Rather, a lack of oxygen in the water is to blame.

DEQ executive Trudy Fisher said low oxygen levels are common this time of year due to spikes in the temperature.

Dr. Moby Solangi's team picked up a dead dolphin Monday on the north side of Horn Island. Solangi believes it had been dead for a week or two. Test are being done to determine exactly what caused the animal's death, but Solangi said it did not appear oil related.

Six other dolphins found from Louisiana to Alabama are also being tested, but show no obvious signs that the Gulf oil leak was to blame.

Blair Mase of the National Marine Fisheries Service said Tuesday it's common for dead dolphins to wash up this time of year when they are in shallow waters to calve.

The Associated Press found dolphins swimming and playing in oily waters off Louisiana last week.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.


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Dr. Moby Solangi on the Oil's Impact on Marine Life
WLOX Video
May 6, 2010





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Saving Marine Wildlife From Oil Spill
CNN
May 6, 2010



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Teams Prepare for Influx of Oil Injured Marine Life
WLOX Video and Article by Steve Phillips
May 5, 2010


GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - As the offshore oil slick drifts in the gulf, animal experts are gearing-up for the expected influx of marine life injured by oil.

NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service discussed that aspect of the crisis during a news conference Wednesday at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport.

Dr. Moby Solangi's facility in Gulfport is one of four gulf facilities, designated by NOAA, to handle any injured marine animals.

Turtles have gotten plenty of attention in recent days. But so far, the deaths of 37 sea turtles, have not been linked to the oil spill and may in fact be simply the "normal strandings" expected this time of year.

However, oil injured animals are expected in the coming days, since NOAA helicopter flights saw marine animals in and around the oil spill.

Sheryan Epperly is NOAA's representative with National Fisheries Service.

"We are seeing turtles and marine mammals, including dolphins, various species of dolphins and whales, in and outside of the oil," she said at the news conference.

Injured dolphins would likely be cared for in Gulfport. The curiosity of the creatures could mean toxic trouble in oil tainted waters.

"An animal out there doesn't know that this is crude oil and it is toxic. All it knows is it's something to play with. They tend to want to see something. It's like a child who would put his finger in that little outlet, not knowing what's out there," said Dr. Moby Solangi with IMMS.

For those who may be quick to link dead turtles with the offshore oil slick; a warning.

"I want to stress that each year we have strandings in this area. Whether, regardless of what's happening offshore. So, the presence of sea turtles in this area is not abnormal relative to past years. There's just a lot of focus on these strandings this year because they're on the path or the potential path of the spill area," said Epperly.

Descriptions about the impact of the oil spill have ranged from something just beyond a nuisance to something catastrophic.

WLOX News asked the group if it's possible to accurately characterize the impact at this point. The BP representative said we've been given the "gift of time" with favorable weather.

"As the oil weathers, it changes. And in some ways becomes less dangerous. We don't want it there. We're still after it with every means possible. And still protecting the shore line. But we have gotten a couple of breaks, frankly," said Steve Rinehart.

Dr. Solangi said dolphins which encounter the oil, face serious health issues.

"We take short breaths. These animals take a huge breath at one time and hold it. And when they take it the fumes stay in the lungs for a long period of time and they cause two types of damage, one which is immediate to the tissue itself. Second, the hydro carbons enter the bloodstream," he said.

BP has hired a private contractor to deal with the expected oil-covered birds.

Company spokesman Rinehart said, so far, there's been just one confirmed report of an oil tainted bird. That northern gannet was rescued by a team in Louisiana.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.




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Dead Turtles Wash Up in Gulf of Mexico; No Link Yet to Oil Spill
St. Petersburg Times Article by Rebecca Catalanello
May 4, 2010


PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss. — Megan Broadway scooped up the foul-smelling sea turtle with her blue gloved hands and dropped it in a black garbage bag.

Since Saturday, she and others with the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies have collected 25 of these washed-up reptiles along Pass Christian's coastline.

No one knows now whether the seemingly high incidence has to do with the oil collecting in the Gulf of Mexico for the last two weeks since the explosion of the BP rig Deepwater Horizon.

On Monday afternoon, veterinarians from the National Marine Fisheries Service went behind closed doors to dissect each of the reptiles, trying to determine why this is happening. Officials said it could be days or weeks before anyone knows.

"We have not seen any visible connection between the oil and these deaths," said Moby Solangi, executive director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport. But the proliferation seems unusual, he said.

Stephan Bradley, 48, a lifelong Pass Christian resident, was on his lunch break when he spotted Broadway and colleague Wendy Hatchett huddled over their third dead turtle of the day.

Bradley said he has never heard of anything like this happening to turtles on these shores.

"Not dead," he said.

Solangi cautioned that this is the time of year when sea turtles are found on beaches. And it could be that public awareness of the oil spill has simply altered the mind-set of those searching for evidence that something is wrong in the water.

"It's kind of like after Katrina," said Mimi Naney, a Pass Christian resident who remembers that after the 2005 hurricane, most problems were blamed on the storm. "Everything is oil."

While there is no doubt the bountiful wildlife of the Gulf of Mexico is threatened by the spill, so far tangible evidence of its condition has been hard to find.

Ed Overton, professor emeritus at the Louisiana State University School of Coast and the Environment, said the longer the oil continues to stay off shore, pushed around by weather and waves, the better the long-term news for coastal wildlife.

"The toxic material is weathered away," he said. "And what you're left with is sticky material, more of a nuisance than a toxic threat."


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Scientists Study Possible Impact of Oil Spill on Marine Life
WLOX Video and Article by Doug Walker
May 4, 2010


MISSISSIPPI SOUND (WLOX) - The waters of the Mississippi Sound were quiet Wednesday morning as a group of scientists headed out to sea. They feel their research is vitally important with the threat of oil looming offshore.

"What we're doing today is part of an effort to establish baseline information, so that if we do have an impact from the oil spill, we'll be able to access the damage," Harriet Perry said.  

The first trawl was laid down, then brought back up, teaming with life. The animals were combed though. Some were kept, while others were thrown back.  The next trawl took place in the deep water south of Horn Island.

"We go back out, if and when the oil comes in, to the same locations," Dr. Joe Griffitt said. "Sample the same species and do the same studies, and we can look for differences that can be attributed to the presence of the oil."  

Officials at the Gulf Coast Research Lab hope the research conducted in the Gulf Wednesday will help other areas that may one day be impacted by a similar spill.

"Be ready to provide, really, whatever is needed as far as the information to the management of the Environmental Protection Agency, and other national agencies," Research Lab Director Dr. Bill Hawkins said. 

Catching and tagging sharks was also part of the operation, as was taking water samples adds to the data base.  Even nearshore oysters beds are part of the equation.  Then it was back to the lab for testing and analysis, a process that will take several days to document. 

But Harriet said the work of these scientists is far from over.

"Almost every boat we have at the laboratory is in the water and have had them in the water for about a week taking various kinds of samples."

The scientists are not the only ones working on the research project.  Dozens of students from the University of Southern Mississippi are also involved as part of the marine biology curriculum at the college.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.




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Gulf Coast Watches, Waits for Path of Oil Spill
The Associated Press Article by Harry Weber and Vicki Smith
May 4, 2010


NEW ORLEANS – The sea calmed Tuesday, helping efforts to fight a massive oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico but providing scant comfort for people along beaches and bayous waiting anxiously to find out when and where the mess might come ashore.

So far only sheens have reached into some coastal waters, and the oil's slow progress despite an uncapped seafloor gusher has given crews and volunteers time to lay boom in front of shorelines. That effort was stymied by choppy seas into the weekend, but officials were optimistic Tuesday as the sun came out and winds eased.

Coast Guard spokesman David Mosley said Tuesday that rig operator BP LPC would continue trying to cap the leak and authorities hoped to dump chemicals from an airplane to help break up the sheen.

The uncertainty has been trying for people who live along a swath of the Gulf from Louisiana to Florida. The undersea well has been spewing 200,000 gallons a day since an April 20 explosion aboard the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon that killed 11 workers.

"You mentally want to push it back to the west, and then you feel guilty for doing so," said Jan Grant, manager at the St. George Inn on St. George Island, Fla., about the path the spill might take.

BP has been unable to shut off the well, but crews have reported progress with a new method for cutting the amount of oil that reaches the surface. They're using a remotely operated underwater vehicle to pump chemicals called dispersants into the oil as it pours from the well, to break it up before it rises. Results were encouraging but the approach is still being evaluated, BP and Coast Guard officials said.

The latest satellite image of the slick, taken Sunday night, indicates that it has shrunk since last week, but that only means some of the oil has gone underwater.

The new image found oil covering about 2,000 square miles, rather than the roughly 3,400 square miles observed last Thursday, said Hans Graber of the University of Miami.

Fishing has been shut down in federal waters from the Mississippi River to the Florida Panhandle, leaving boats idle Monday in the middle of the prime spring season. A special season to allow boats to gather shrimp before it gets coated in oil will close Tuesday evening.

The effect on wildlife is still unclear. No oil has been found on 29 dead endangered Kemp's ridley turtles that were examined by experts after washing up on the beaches along the Mississippi coast over the past few days.

But Moby Solangi, director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, said tissue samples would be sent off to labs for further review. Experts have warned that just because no oil is found on the turtles that doesn't mean they didn't consume contaminated fish or come into contact with toxins.

Meanwhile, crews haven't been able to activate a shutout valve underwater. And it could take another week before a 98-ton concrete-and-metal box is placed over one of the leaks to capture the oil.

Worse, it could take three months to drill sideways into the well and plug it with mud and concrete to stop the worst U.S. oil spill since the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska, leaking nearly 11 million gallons of crude.

Those nowhere near the Gulf who drink coffee, eat shrimp, like fruit or plan to buy a new set of tires could also end up paying for the disaster.

A total shutdown of Mississippi River shipping lanes is unlikely. But there could be long delays if cargo vessels that move millions of tons of fruit, rubber, grain, steel and other commodities in and out of the nation's interior are forced to wait to have their oil-coated hulls power-washed to avoid contaminating the Mississippi. Some cargo ships might choose to unload somewhere else in the U.S. That could drive up costs.

"Let's say it gets real bad. It gets blocked off and they don't let anything in. They lose time, and they are very concerned about that," said river pilot Michael Lorino. "It's going to be very costly if they have to unload that cargo in another port and ship it back here because it was destined for here."

BP said Monday it would compensate people for "legitimate and objectively verifiable" claims from the explosion and spill, but President Barack Obama and others pressed the company to explain exactly what that means.

For the tourism industry, the spill couldn't come at a worse time. Restaurant owners and inkeepers said they are already getting calls about the spill.

"It's the beginning of the booking season, the beginning of the summer season," said Marie Curren, sales director for Brett/Robinson, a real estate firm in Gulf Shores, Ala. "The only thing that could make it worst now is a hurricane."

Dana Powell expects at least some lost business at the Paradise Inn in Pensacola Beach, Fla., and could see a different type of guest altogether: Instead of families boating, parasailing and fishing, workers on cleanup crews will probably be renting her rooms.

"They won't be having as much fun," she said, "but they might be buying more liquor at the bar, because they'll be so depressed."

And what will she serve in her restaurant? Hamburgers and chicken fingers instead of crab claws.

By all accounts, the disaster is certain to cost BP billions. But analysts said the company could handle it; BP is the world's third-largest oil company and made more than $6 billion in the first three months of this year. The oil spill has drained $32 billion from BP's stock market value.

Associated Press writers Sarah Larimer, Mike Schneider, Jay Reeves, Jeannine Aversa, Christopher Leonard, Alan Sayre, Melissa Nelson and Allen G. Breed contributed to this report.


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No Oil Found on 35 Dead Turtles in Gulf of Mexico
The Associated Press
May 4, 2010


GULFPORT, Miss. -- Wildlife officials are saying that at least 35 endangered sea turtles have washed up on Gulf coast beaches, but it's not clear what's killing them.

Moby Solangi, director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Miss., said Tuesday necropsies had been completed on the turtles and found no oil. Experts are still warning the turtles may have eaten fish contaminated by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Some wildlife officials say the turtles may have been killed by aggressive shrimpers trying to haul in catches before the oil potentially contaminates their fishing grounds.

The Washington, D.C.-based conservation group Oceana says officials need to determine what is killing the turtles quickly.


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No Oil Found On 29 Dead Turtles in Gulf of Mexico
The Associated Press Article by Maria Burnham
May 4, 2010


Gus Holliman has spent the last two days riding the beaches in this coastal Mississippi town, hoping not to find dead animals.

On Saturday the sea turtles started washing up on shore. On Sunday, the turtles were joined by dead catfish, horseshoe crabs, and birds -- a duck, a pelican and a seagull.

Before the April 20 rig explosion and oil started pouring into the Gulf, the city might see a small turtle wash up every six months -- one that got caught in a net, or died from some natural cause, said Holliman, a City of Pass Christian patrol officer, who works the harbor.

"But we've never seen this many," he says, shaking his head. "Something's going on; we just don't know what."

The animals don't appear to be coated in oil, but some of the turtles have damaged shells. Though sea turtles can be seen out near the barrier islands, no one is sure where these dead ones are coming from.

The dead animals are being bagged and taken to the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, where scientists are trying to determine what caused their deaths. So far, there are no answers.

Aside from the dead animals, which residents here are viewing as an ominous sign of what's to come, there isn't much to do, but wait.

"We're in a hurry up and wait situation with no answers," said Adam Pace, 26, a local developer.

Pace says as a recreational fisherman, he's periodically spotted the sea turtles, which are an endangered species -- but that it was a rare treat.

"I haven't seen 12 in my life, much less 12 wash up on a beach," he said Sunday, sitting at Shaggy's Harbor Bar & Grill, just down the beach from where the animals were found.

People are going about their lives in this small town -- attending church services, having lunch with friends, making plans for the week ahead -- but almost every conversation seems to start with a discussion of wind, water and oil.

"We're waiting for something that we don't even know what we're waiting for," Mayor Chipper McDermott said Sunday, as he helped city and harbor workers lower wooden planks into the water along the harbor pilings.

The city is trying to protect its harbor should the worst happen and the oil head toward them. It laid a boom on the west side of the harbor Saturday night and is trying to locate more for the east side.

"Boom is hard to come by right now," McDermott said.

It is also using wooden planks to plug holes between the pilings.

The city is having to foot the bill itself for now because the Environmental Protection Agency rated harbors low on its priority list. The boom is costing the city about $400 a day. BP, the company that operated the rig, has told local officials it will pay for such measures, but city officials are skeptical.

"We've been through all this with Katrina," McDermott said. "We've been burned."

Pass Christian is the Mississippi Gulf Coast's smallest city, surrounded on three sides by water. It's only about 15 square miles, and, depending on the tide, about 7 of that is water.

"We are a water-based town," McDermott said. "We sell water. That's what we do."

The entire city -- from its seafood industry, to its tourism, to its restaurants -- is supported by the Gulf. It's a town that is still rebuilding from Katrina, that has condo developments half-built and on hold because of the economy. And now it's waiting to see if the oil will be the knockout punch.

"We are in a delicate position," McDermott said. "Everything will be affected."


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Turtles Washing Up in Gulf, But No Link Established Yet to Oil Slick
Palm Beach Post Article by Christine Stapleton
May 3, 2010


GULFPORT, MISS. — No evidence of oil was found in the first five of 30 sea turtles that have washed up dead on beaches along the Gulf Coast of Mexico, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Still, the turtles could be collateral damage from the hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil spilled since the Horizon rig exploded a two weeks ago. The turtles may have died after being caught in the nets of desperate shrimpers, who removed turtle exclusion cages from their nets in order to catch as much shrimp as possible before their fishing grounds were closed, NOAA spokesman Brian Gorman said Monday.

Also on Monday federal officials told marine biologists performing necropsies that the turtles are evidence in an ongoing investigation and to follow a chain-of-evidence protocol and not comment to the media. After a call from the Unified Command early Monday afternoon, officials at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, the non-profit group in Gulfport where the necropsies are performed, channeled all questions through its executive director, Moby Solangi.

Normally, this stretch of the Gulf of Mexico's beaches sees about 10 turtle deaths a year. Although having 25 dead turtles during such a short period is unusual, the spike could be caused by having more people out looking for turtle carcasses, too, Solangi said.

"It's a variety of reasons," Solangi said. "It's the stranding season and there is a heightened awareness, and you also have more people reporting turtle deaths than before. Until we get results of necropsy and pathology we cannot make a correlation."

Information about how long the turtles were dead was not made public. But some of the turtles, mostly Kemps Ridley, loggerhead and green, appeared to have been dead for at least 5 days. Some were so badly decomposed that finding a cause of death will be difficult, Solangi said.

Kemps Ridley turtles are the smallest sea turtles and not often seen in the waters off Palm Beach County. However, loggerhead turtles, which can migrate hundreds of miles, are about to begin nesting on the county's beaches, said Kirt Rushenko, a marine conservationist at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton.

"I am really concerned that if the winds shift and put the oil in the Loop current in the Gulf, it could pull the oil south and into the Gulf Stream," Rushenko said. "We're just starting nesting season. Having oil on the beach is not a good thing."

Turtles and other marine animals that must come to the surface for air are especially susceptible to the oil, Rushenko said: "They likely come up to breathe and get oil in their trachea or they breath the fumes -- it could kill them immediately."

As the spill widens, the next victims will likely be dolphins -- another sea animal that needs to come to the surface to breathe, Solangi said. The Gulf of Mexico between Gulfport and the Mississippi River is home to nearly 5,000 dolphins and this is their calving season, Solangi said.

"It's very hard to explain the consequences unless it really hits you personally," he said. And people will take dolphin deaths personally, he said.

"Do you know what is the most popular tattoo for women in Mississippi?" Solangi asked. "The dolphin."


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Miss. Coast Town Has Little to do, but Wait
Associated Press Article by Maria Burnham
May 3, 2010


Gus Holliman has spent the last two days riding the beaches in this coastal Mississippi town, hoping not to find dead animals.

On Saturday the sea turtles started washing up on shore. On Sunday, the turtles were joined by dead catfish, horseshoe crabs, and birds -- a duck, a pelican and a seagull.

Before the April 20 rig explosion and oil started pouring into the Gulf, the city might see a small turtle wash up every six months -- one that got caught in a net, or died from some natural cause, said Holliman, a City of Pass Christian patrol officer, who works the harbor.

"But we've never seen this many," he says, shaking his head. "Something's going on; we just don't know what."

The animals don't appear to be coated in oil, but some of the turtles have damaged shells. Though sea turtles can be seen out near the barrier islands, no one is sure where these dead ones are coming from.

The dead animals are being bagged and taken to the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, where scientists are trying to determine what caused their deaths. So far, there are no answers.

Aside from the dead animals, which residents here are viewing as an ominous sign of what's to come, there isn't much to do, but wait.

"We're in a hurry up and wait situation with no answers," said Adam Pace, 26, a local developer.

Pace says as a recreational fisherman, he's periodically spotted the sea turtles, which are an endangered species -- but that it was a rare treat.

"I haven't seen 12 in my life, much less 12 wash up on a beach," he said Sunday, sitting at Shaggy's Harbor Bar & Grill, just down the beach from where the animals were found.

People are going about their lives in this small town -- attending church services, having lunch with friends, making plans for the week ahead -- but almost every conversation seems to start with a discussion of wind, water and oil.

"We're waiting for something that we don't even know what we're waiting for," Mayor Chipper McDermott said Sunday, as he helped city and harbor workers lower wooden planks into the water along the harbor pilings.

The city is trying to protect its harbor should the worst happen and the oil head toward them. It laid a boom on the west side of the harbor Saturday night and is trying to locate more for the east side.

"Boom is hard to come by right now," McDermott said.

It is also using wooden planks to plug holes between the pilings.

The city is having to foot the bill itself for now because the Environmental Protection Agency rated harbors low on its priority list. The boom is costing the city about $400 a day. BP, the company that operated the rig, has told local officials it will pay for such measures, but city officials are skeptical.

"We've been through all this with Katrina," McDermott said. "We've been burned."

Pass Christian is the Mississippi Gulf Coast's smallest city, surrounded on three sides by water. It's only about 15 square miles, and, depending on the tide, about 7 of that is water.

"We are a water-based town," McDermott said. "We sell water. That's what we do."

The entire city -- from its seafood industry, to its tourism, to its restaurants -- is supported by the Gulf. It's a town that is still rebuilding from Katrina, that has condo developments half-built and on hold because of the economy. And now it's waiting to see if the oil will be the knockout punch.

"We are in a delicate position," McDermott said. "Everything will be affected."


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Oil Spill Could Devastate Wildlife
CBS The Early Show Video
May 3, 2010




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Weather Problems for US Oil Spill
AlJazera English Video
May 3, 2010




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Oil Spill's Potential Effect on Gulf's Wildlife
CBS The Early Show
May 3, 2010


(CBS)  As the massive oil slick continues its approach toward the shores along the Gulf coast, there's growing concern about the danger posed to local wildlife and its habitats.

On "The Early Show" Monday, CBS News Special Contributor Jeff Corwin reported from Gulfport, Miss. Corwin said the area, known for hurricanes, is experiencing a similar sense of nervous anticipation before a storm, fearful of losing precious wildlife that is a hallmark of the coast.

Corwin reported at first glance all looks serene along the Gulf coastline as rare terns nest in scrapes of sand and black skimmers glide along the water in search of food. But just off shore, he said an unprecedented environmental catastrophe is drifting closer.

Alison Sharpe, director of Wildlife Care and Rescue Center, Inc., told CBS News, "(The spill) has the great potential of wiping out the entire population of least terns along our coast area."

Least terns were once plentiful on the shores of Biloxi, Miss. At one time, 12,000 of the species lived there. Now only 2,000 terns remain.

Corwin pointed out a nest filled with least tern eggs.

He said, "It only takes about 20 days for the eggs of the least tern to hatch and another 20 days for the chicks to leave the nest, which means right now, is the most critical period in the life cycle of these birds, when they're most vulnerable."

But it's not just the least terns that are threatened, Corwin said. It's estimated more than 400 species would be impacted by the spill.

Dr. Mobi Solangi, director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, told Corwin he's prepared to house and treat up to 100 marine animals. For now, his tanks are empty, except for a lone dolphin from a previous rescue.

Corwin asked, "If things stay on course and the oil spill hits the way it's predicted to, how will this place be transformed?"

Solangi replied, "There are about 3,000 to 5,000 dolphins that are from here to the mouth of the river, so if many of them start coming in, it's going to be overwhelming."

On Sunday, a rescue team from Dr. Solangi's center recovered 13 sea turtles that had washed ashore -- an unusually high number. (On Monday, Solangi reported an updated number: He said at least 20 dead sea turtles were found on the state's beaches.) While scientists have yet to determine if oil caused their death, there's concern that the turtles may be the first victims of this oil spill.

The Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 left more than 250,000 animals dead. If the oil in the Gulf continues to flow at its current estimated rate, it would take about six weeks to eclipse the Valdez spill.

Solangi said, "There was finite quantity with the Valdez, they knew that they had 11 million gallons, after that there was no more, here we don't know."

Corwin added, "Up in Valdez, along the Prince William Sound, along the Alaska coastline, the waters were much deeper and the tides were far more rigorous and turbulent, and believe it or not, it had a positive impact on the overall spill. Here (in the Gulf coast), we have shallower waters and it tends to have more of a stagnant effect. So when that oil comes in, it's here to stay."

"We don't know is exactly where or when the thick crude sludge will hit the shores," he said. "In areas of Louisiana, were beginning to see oil skim and scientists are left to wait and watch, deeply concerned for the local wildlife."

Corwin explained to "Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith that an animal dies from oil because every inch of their body is exposed to the oil. Dolphins, for example, can die from suffocation, if oil enters their lungs.

He added turtles and birds will actually eat food that's covered in oil, which can affect their digestive systems. In birds, also, the oil seeps into their feathers and impairs body insulation, exposing them to cold and making it difficult for them to move.

"What we have here is the ultimate Pandora's box," Corwin said. "And as this oil leaks out and and it invades this ecosystem, there's really no way to get it out."

© MMX, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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Oil Slick Continues to Approach the Gulf Coast Shores
Video and Article by WDEF News 12 and CBS
May 3, 2010

AS THE MASSIVE OIL SLICK CONTINUES TO APPROACH THE GULF COAST SHORES, THERE'S GROWING FEAR ABOUT THE DEVASTATION IT COULD CAUSE TO LOCAL WILDLIFE AND THEIR HABITATS.
CBS NEWS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT JEFF CORWIN JOINS US WITH MORE ON THAT FROM GULFPORT, MISSISSIPPI.

At first glance all looks serene along the gulf coastline...rare terns nest in scrapes of sand...black skimmers glide along the water in search of food. But just off shore, an unprecedented environmental catastrophe is drifting this way.

12,000 Least terns used to inhabit these Bi-lux-ee, Mississippi shores. Now there are only 2000.

IT ONLY TAKES ABOUT 20 DAYS FOR THE EGGS OF THE LEAST TURN TO HATCH AND ANOTHER 20 DAYS FOR THE CHICKS TO LEAVE THE NEST, WHICH MEANS RIGHT NOW, IS THE MOST CRITICAL PERIOD IN THE LIFE CYCLE OF THESE BIRDS, WHEN THEY'RE MOST VULNERABLE.

And it's not just the least terns - it's estimated more than 400 species would be impacted by the spill.

Dr Mobi Solangi runs the institute of marine mammals studies in Gulfport. He's prepared to house and treat up to 100 marine animals. For now, his tanks are empty, except for a lone dolphin from a previous rescue.

IF THINGS STAY ON COURSE AND THE OIL SPILL HITS ITS THEY WAYS ITS PREDICTED TO, HOW WILL THIS PLACE BE TRANSFORMED (MOBY)// THERE ARE ABOUT 3-5000 DOLPHINS THAT ARE FROM HERE TO THE MOUTH OF THE RIVER, SO IF MANY OF THEM START COMING IN, ITS GOING TO BE OVERWHELMING.

On Sunday, a rescue team from Dr. Solangi's center recovered 13 Sea turtles that had washed ashore... an unusually high number. While scientists have yet to determine if oil caused their death - there's concern that the turtles may be the first victims of this oil spill.

The Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 left more than 250 thousand animals dead. If the oil in the gulf continues to flow at its current estimated rate, it would take about 6 weeks to eclipse the Valdez spill.

SUGGESTED TAG: ANOTHER THING WE DONT KNOW IS EXACTLY WHERE OR WHEN THE THICK CRUDE SLUDGE WILL HIT THE SHORES....IN AREAS OF LOUSIANA WERE BEGINNING TO SEE OIL SKIM AND SCIENTISTS ARE LEFT TO WAIT AND WATCH--DEEPLY CONCERNED FOR THE LOCAL WILDLIFE.




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Gulf Oil Spill: 23 Dead Sea Turtles Wash Ashore in Mississippi
LA Times Article by Louis Sahagun
May 3, 2010


The carcasses of 23 sea turtles have been found along Mississippi's 70 miles of coastline, and have been retrieved for examination by the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, said Moby Solangi, the group’s president and executive director.

The carcasses were placed in garbage bags that were stacking up in the institute’s necropsy lab refrigerator unit. 

Although this is the time of year when dead turtles are often found on the beach, scientists say the number is more than double what they would expect. Necropsies will be conducted Monday afternoon by a team of four veterinarians. It’s unclear whether the deaths are related to the oil spill, which is still offshore. 

“This is the stranding season for sea turtles, but the numbers we are seeing are unusually high. It could be the result of heightened awareness and reporting, but they may also have been affected by the slick and floated this way,” Solangi said.

All of the turtles that have washed ashore are threatened and endangered species, and include loggerhead, Kemp's ridley and green sea turtles.

The institute was stocking up on medications, antibiotics and detergents in preparation for what Solangi said could be an overwhelming demand for services.

The institute is the only facility designed to receive and rehabilitate stricken sea turtles and marine mammals along the Mississippi and Alabama coastlines.

A similar rash of dead sea turtles has been reported in Texas, according to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, on the Alabama coastline, volunteers were cleaning trash from beaches in preparation for possible oil spill cleanup efforts.


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Winds Holding Gulf Oil Spill Offshore
USA Today Article by Donna Leinwand and Brian Winter
May 3, 2010


PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss. — Winds were aiding the effort to keep most of the Gulf oil spill away from shore Tuesday, and giant energy company BP said efforts to cap the spill with a concrete dome were moving forward.

Still, Charlie Henry, a science coordinator with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), cautioned that the long-term path of the oil remains unclear. Officials from Louisiana to Florida said they are still preparing for an environmental catastrophe in days and weeks ahead.

BP's chief executive said a containment dome designed to cover the principal leak will be on the seabed Thursday, and will be hooked up to a drill ship over the weekend. CEO Tony Hayward warned that the procedure had never been done before at a depth of nearly a mile below the water's surface.

The plan is to cover the leak with a 98-ton concrete-and-metal box structure known as a cofferdam, and funnel the oil to the surface, but Hayward cautioned "there's no guarantees." If the plan eails, it may take 90 days to drill a separate well to stop the flow of oil, he said.

About 210,000 gallons of oil a day have been leaking from a well off the Louisiana coast since the Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig operated by BP, exploded April 20 and sank.

Hayward said chemicals used to disperse the oil seem to be having a significant impact in keeping oil from floating to the surface.

Moby Solangi, a marine biologist and executive director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Miss., is amassing supplies for the onslaught of injured wildlife that he expects to pour into the institute in coming days. The center can comfortably care for three dozen animals, but he says he'll take more if necessary.

The Gulf of Mexico, he says, is a crucial habitat teeming with 400 to 600 species, including sperm whales, bottlenose dolphins, loggerhead turtles and sturgeon. The longer the oil remains in the water, the more contaminated the food chain will get.

"I think it's the magnitude that concerns us most," Solangi said. "If they can't cap it for weeks, it'll be an unprecedented disaster."

Elsewhere, people were left to wait — and prepare for the worst. NOAA has closed off a large area of the Gulf to fishing until at least the middle of next week, resulting in untold economic damage to a region still reeling from the recession and 2005's Hurricane Katrina.

Darlene Kimball, 42, a seafood dealer in Pass Christian, was sitting in her trailer with a group of idled fishermen when an investigator from the Shiyou Law Firm in nearby Hattiesburg popped in and began handing out business cards.

"Just give us a call if you want us to sue," investigator Norman Holden told the group.

Holden said he was driving along the Mississippi coast, stopping off at every harbor and dock. Five fishermen had signed up by Monday afternoon, he said.

"This place has been swarming with attorneys all week, 10 to 15 of them," Kimball said. "But that's the only thing that's been going on."

By contrast, activity hummed at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida, where Coast Guard ships were preparing to help recover oil from the spill.

"This is the first time our ship will have worked to recover oil," said Michael Glander, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Oak.

Political fallout from the spill continues. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, said the Gulf oil spill has caused him to withdraw his support for an expansion of drilling off his state's coast. "You turn on the television and see this enormous disaster, you say to yourself, 'Why would we want to take on that kind of risk?' " Schwarzenegger said.

Contributing: Rick Jervis in New Orleans; Kris Wernowsky of the Pensacola News Journal in Florida; the Associated Press. Winter reported from McLean, Va.


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No Evidence of Oil Found in Dead Sea Turtles, Other Oil Spill News From the Gulf Coast
The Times-Picayune Article
May 3, 2010


Necropsies completed on five of the 25 dead sea turtles found along Mississippi beaches in the past few days show no evidence of oil killing them, according to a report in the Mississippi Press.

The Mobile Press-Register reports that BP has been told to stop circulating settlement agreements with coastal Alabamians. 

Also in the Press-Register: If U.S. officials had followed up on a 1994 response plan for a major Gulf oil spill, it is possible that the spill could have been kept under control and far from land. The problem: The federal government did not have a single fire boom on hand. 

Remember that strong odor reported in New Orleans last week? Apparently the smell has reached the Alabama Gulf Coast, according to a report on al.com.

And just like New Orleans, in Alabama the seafood industry is watching, waiting and suffering as the oil approaches the Gulf Coast, the Press-Register reports.


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Massive Oil Slick Threatens U.S. Gulf Coast
LIFE
May 3, 2010




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Volunteer Training Begins to Help Protect Wildlife
WLOX Video
May 2, 2010





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Dead Wildlife Turning Up in Pass Christian
SunHerald Article by Anita Lee
May 2, 2010


PASS CHRISTIAN — Dead wildlife is being spotted on the beach in Pass Christian, Fire Chief Dwight Gordon reported Sunday.

The city has placed a boom around the outer edge of the inner harbor, but boaters who can do so are being urged to remove their boats to avoid contamination from the oil spill.

The city warns that dead animals should not be touched.

Please report any dead wildlife to the harbormaster’s office at 452-5128. The city is posting updates on its Web site, www.ci.pass-christian.ms.us


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Dead Sea Turtles Washing Up Along Gulf Coast
May 2, 2010



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Scientists, Volunteers Prepare for Marine Animal Rescue Effort in Gulf Oil Spill Disaster

Mississippi Press-Register Article by Harlan Kirgan
May 2, 2010


GULFPORT, Miss. -- When oily water washes over marine animals in Mississippi and Alabama, as it almost certainly will, it will be largely up to a team of scientists and volunteers here to nurse them back to health.

The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies is bracing for the impact of last week's explosion of the Deepwater Horizon and an out-of-control oil leak that has resulted.

The institute has medicine, eight large pools, surgery and exam rooms, as well as X-ray and ultrasound machines and walk-in freezers stocked with fish for food.

"It's a premier facility," said Moby Solangi, president and executive director of the institute.

On Saturday, a training coordinator for the Gulfport Fire Department led a session for staff members and volunteers on how to handle dangerous chemicals and avoid exposure to crude oil.

At some point, the volunteers and staffers will get instruction on how to care for animals covered in oil and transport them to safety.

"We're doing this in steps," said Tony Knight, the training coordinator.

Many of the folks gathered in the institute's auditorium have helped for months or years caring for dolphins and other animals. But none has lived through the ordeal they are about to experience.

Gerry Carroll, a retired auditor who lives in St. Martin and has volunteered at the institute for more than a year, recalled watching TV images of rescuers brushing oil off of birds and other creatures.

"It looks like it's going to be our turn," she said. "I grew up here, and after I retired, I moved back. Anything I can do to keep it in the best condition possible, I'll do."

Solangi said his marine wildlife rehabilitation center has 20 full-time staffers and about 60 trained volunteers, including veterinarians and technicians. The institute is looking for volunteers with specific skills or education, including biologists, scuba divers, medical professions, heavy equipment operators and mechanics.

The institute is working with the National Marine Fisheries Service to rescue as many sea creatures as possible.

Solangi said the institute could accommodate several dozen dolphins, manatees, turtles and other marine animals. He said that if the oil spill is bad enough, however, it could quickly overrun his facilities. Some animals could be moved to facilities in nearby states, including Texas and Florida.

Solangi said estimates of the dolphin population from Gulfport to the mouth of the Mississippi River range from 2,000 to 5,000.

"And this is also the birthing season," he said.

Dolphins can be hurt if oil contacts their skin, Solangi said. They also can inhale the hydrocarbons from the oil, he added. What makes it worse, he said, is the animals' curiosity, which is likely to draw them toward the oil.

"You know, they're very intelligent," he said. "But that intelligence is what gets them in trouble."

Homer Singleton, a retired lawyer from Elberta, said he has been volunteering at the institute for several months. He said he has helped respond to stranded marine animals but has not faced anything approaching the magnitude of this disaster.

"I grew up on the coast, so that's how I got involved," he said. "This is already, as I understand it, larger than the Exxon Valdez, and it's getting bigger all the time."

Solangi said he worries that the saturation of oil in the marshes and bayous along the coast will set off a "vicious cycle" that could impede wildlife for years and years. Fish coming into contact with oil develop digestive problems, which then affects bigger animals that eat them, he said.

"The food chain gets contaminated," he said.

The Valdez oil tanker spill in Prince William Sound off of Alaska was not as bad, Solangi said, because 9-foot tidal changes helped flush the oil out eventually. Such flushing is less likely along the Gulf Coast, where shallow bodies of water see tidal shifts of 1 to 2 feet.

"We had (Hurricane) Katrina, which was the worst natural disaster. Now, we're looking at the worst manmade disaster," he said. "It's an unimaginable problem. ... We'll know more in the next few days."


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Weather Hampers Preparations for Animal Rescue; Rehabilitation Center to Train Volunteers
Press-Register Article by Brendan Kirby
May 1, 2010


Rough weather hampered efforts this morning to search for birds, dolphins and other marine life that might be affected by the oncoming oil leaking from a sunken drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Right now, the weather has been really bad, and we have not been able to out," said Moby Solangi, president and executive director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport. "But the oil slick is moving slower than it had been."

Solangi said his marine wildlife rehabilitation center will hold a training session today at 3 p.m. for staff and volunteers. The institute has 20 full-time staffers and about 60 trained volunteers, including veterinarians and technicians.

The institute is looking for volunteers with specific skills or education, including biologists, SCUBA divers, medical professions, heavy equipment operators and mechanics.

The institute is working with the National Marine Fisheries Service to rescue as many sea creatures as possible when oil from the Deepwater Horizon begins spilling onto the marshes, bayous and beaches of the upper Gulf Coast.

Solangi said animals rescued from Alabama and Mississippi will be sent to the institute in Gulfport, which has state-of-the-art veterinary surgery rooms and pools.

"It's a premier facility," he said.

Solangi said the institute could accommodate several dozen dolphins, manatees, turtles and other marine animals. He said that if the oil spill is bad enough, however, it could quickly overrun his facilities. Some animals could be moved to facilities in nearby states like Texas and Florida.

Solangi said estimates of the dolphin population from Gulfport to the mouth of the Mississippi River range from 2,000 to 5,000.

"And this is also the birthing season," he said.

Dolphins can be hurt if oil contacts their skin, Solangi said. They also can inhale the hydrocarbons from the oil, he added. What makes it worse, he said, is the animals' curiosity, which is likely to draw them toward the oil.

"You know, they're very intelligent," he said. "But that intelligence is what gets them in trouble."


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20 Sea Turtles Found Dead Along Miss. Beaches
Associated Press Article by Brian Skoloff
May 1, 2010


GULFPORT, Miss. — At least 20 sea turtles have been found dead this weekend along a 30-mile stretch of Mississippi beaches from Biloxi to Bay St. Louis.

While wildlife officials can't say with certainty the turtles, some endangered, died as a result of the oil spill, the number concerns them.

Moby Solangi, director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Miss., said Sunday this is typically the time of year when turtles wash up on shore.

Solangi says even though no oil appears to be on the turtles, they may still have been sickened by consuming oil-coated fish. He says that won't be clear until necropsies are performed on Monday.

Some of the dead reptiles are endangered Kemps ridley turtles.


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Dead Turtles Wash Up In Pass Christian
SunHerald Article by Donna Melton
May 1, 2010


PASS CHRISTIAN — Dead turtles found at the water’s edge in Pass Christian on Saturday will be studied for a cause of death.

Moby Solangi, head of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, said workers searched for 10 turtles reported to have washed ashore, but could recover only six before dusk.

The turtles were taken to the freezer at the Center for Marine Education and Research in Gulfport and would be necropsied Monday to determine what killed them. Solangi said a visual inspection of the turtles did not reveal oily residue.

He said the turtles were found on a half-mile stretch of beach.

“It’s unusual to see this many at one time,” he said.

Workers planned to search for the other turtles today.

Solangi reminds the public not to touch any marine life found dead or injured on Coast beaches. Instead, report the location at 1-888-SOS-DOLPHIN (767-3657).


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Volunteers Train for Oil Spill Impact on Animals
WLOX Article by Krystal Allan
May 1, 2010

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) in Gulfport hosted the first of many required training sessions for volunteers helping animals impacted by the oil spill.

The session covered the health hazards volunteers face while working with bio-hazardous chemicals. Brenda Sumerall is a veterinarian who came down from Hattiesburg for the training.

"I think it's important for everyone to be certified and be on the same page. We have to have organization," said Sumerall.

Volunteers who already work with IMMS also attended the session. Michelle Kessling has a degree in chemistry but said the information is still valuable to her.

"It was just a good refresher for me and a good reminder to always be aware of the chemicals you're working with," said Kessling.

Dr. Mobi Solangi is the director of IMMS. Solangi says volunteers should be prepared to receive training outside the classroom as the situation in the Gulf unfolds.

"As we get animals, there might be on the job trainings," says Solangi.

Check out the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies website for more information on how to become a volunteer.


Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.


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Locals Line Up to Help Coast Cleanup
SunHerald Article by Nicole Dow
May 1, 2010

GULFPORT — Volunteers interested in helping clean up in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are being asked to first receive the proper training.

The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport hosted a training session Saturday as a step to certify volunteers to handle chemicals they might encounter in cleanup. The two-hour session was conducted by Tony Knight, training coordinator for the Gulfport Fire Department.

Due to the hazardous nature of crude oil, training and certification are necessary measures. Crude oil is flammable and contains cancer-causing agents, Knight said. It is important people don’t attempt to help without the proper education.

Moby Solangi, president of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, said similar sessions will be held in the future. Those who haven’t been trained shouldn’t attempt to handle animals, Solangi said.

BP employees will hold four 20-minute basic safety presentations today in Ocean Springs at the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. The training sessions won’t qualify volunteers for direct cleanup of oil-contaminated beaches, but will provide basic health and safety information.

What volunteers can do now is help clean debris from the marshes and beaches before any oil reaches the coastline. Robert Weaver, director of the Sand Beach Authority, stresses the importance of having volunteers registered and trained so organizations can contact them with future opportunities to help.

The city of Biloxi has a Web site to register volunteers for various cleanup efforts. Within 12 hours of creating the site more than 300 people had registered, said Vincent Creel, public affairs manager for Biloxi.

The Sierra Club, a national environmental organization, is also asking people to take action by registering online as volunteers and sending letters to federal and local government officials.

Area residents are creating forums to connect volunteers with organizations.

Ocean Springs residents Melanie Allen and Don Abrams have developed a Web site to register those interested in beach or wildlife cleanup as well as those who can offer their skills or equipment.

Long Beach resident Fritzi Presley used her Facebook page to reach out to volunteers.

“The response has been overwhelming,” she said, noting she received more than 100 replies.

Presley said she uses a “common sense approach” to help. She directs concerned people to organizations such as the Pascagoula River Audubon Center to receive proper training so they don’t endanger themselves in efforts to clean up.

Presley has followed the news since the explosion in the Gulf and wanted to do her part to help the place she loves.

“This is my home. This is my Coast,” she said. “With the hurricanes, you know what you’re dealing with. You can build yourself back up. But this is destroying our ecosystem.”


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Miss. Center Preparing to Handle Oily Mammals
Associated Press Article by Brian Skoloff
April 30, 2010


GULFPORT, Miss. -- A marine wildlife rehabilitation center in Mississippi is gearing up to take in possibly hundreds of oily sea mammals from Texas to Florida.

The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport has surgery, necropsy and exam rooms, walk-in freezers full of frozen fish for food, X-ray and ultrasound machines and plenty of medicine. The nonprofit facility also has eight large pools, which have been cleaned and prepared to handle sea turtles, manatees and dolphins.

Center director Dr. Moby Solangi said Friday the site will be "ground zero" for injured marine mammals.

Solangi said there are roughly up to 5,000 dolphins in the Gulf area between the Mississippi and Louisiana coasts and the oil rig, many giving birth right now.


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Biologist: Spill Could Be the Worst Environmental Disaster in the United
States
SunHerald Article by Donna Melton
April 30, 2010


GULFPORT — A Coast biologist compares the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to Hurricane Katrina.

“Katrina was the worst natural disaster. This could be the worst man-made disaster,” said Moby Solangi, president of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport.

“We got wiped out on land by Katrina and now we’re going to get wiped out at sea by this oil spill,” he said.

Solangi wrote his PhD dissertation in 1980 on the effects of crude oil on the environment.

A massive spill of oil from the Deepwater Horizon rig, which exploded and sank last week, is spreading through the Gulf of Mexico as it reaches for the Mississippi coastline.

The well, a mile below the water’s surface, continues to pump 5,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf.

“I think it’s a catastrophe of the biggest magnitude you can think of,” he said. “This could become, if this isn’t controlled, the worst environmental disaster in the United States.”

Solangi’s team is gearing up to take in possibly hundreds of oily sea mammals from Texas to Florida.

His marine wildlife rehabilitation center will be “ground zero” for injured marine mammals.

Solangi said the oil could kill a generation of marine life and grasses, and it could take one to three years for the environment to recover.


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Gulfport Institute Prepares to Rescue Marine Animals Harmed in Oil Slick
WLOX Video
April 30, 2010




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Institute for Marine Mammal Studies Prepares to Search for Injured Animals
WLOX Video
April 30, 2010



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Gulfport Marine Rescuers Prepare to Respond to Oil Rig Disaster
WLOX Article by Meggan Gray
April 23, 2010


GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - When the Deepwater Horizon started to sink Thursday, crude oil spilled across the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. Moby Solangi immediately worried about the marine animals living in that area.

"The Mississippi Sound and its adjacent waters harbor one of the largest dolphin populations in the United States," Dr. Solangi said. "They're also home to other endangered and threatened species like turtles, and anything that effects their habitat could mean serious problems."

Dr. Solangi is president of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, the only facility in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama equipped to handle strandings that may result from a disaster.

"We are fully prepared. This facility was designed for rehabilitation and to take care of strandings. We are looking at sending out somebody today [Friday] or tomorrow. We'll do a plane survey."

Solangi said oil can be deadly to marine animals.

"Their skins are very delicate and you'll start seeing sores on the skin. If it's turtles, they will not be able to breathe. They'll die, because the oil will be on their nasal sacks."

If they were to find any dolphins in distress, they'll immediately remove them from the water using a special harness, and bring them back to their quarantine facility off Gulfport's Industrial Canal for treatment.

Research assistants like Shea Eaves would then care for the animals.

"We would get a blood sample, we might try to get a gastric sample, a fecal sample, a blow hole sample," explained Eaves. "Those are all factors that we can send off to the hospital and have those results back in a pretty timely basis so we can kind of know what's going on internally and health wise with the animal."

If necessary, the Gulfport facility could take in as many as a dozen rescued dolphins or sea turtles. Whether that will be necessary won't be known until Dr. Solangi's team surveys the gulf.

Dr. Moby Solangi said another major concern is the long-term impact from this disaster.  He said oil could affect the food supply, and after time the contaminated food would make many animals sick.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.


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Oil Spill Could Affect Marine Animals
WLOX Video by Meggan Gray
April 23, 1010





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