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Earth Science

The Gulf's Great Turtle Relocation Project 104

An anonymous reader writes "All along the Gulf Coast's beaches it's turtle-hatching season. Conservationists knew the poor hatchlings wouldn't have a chance if they swam out into the oily waters of the Gulf, so they came up with an incredibly ambitious plan: they would dig up 70,000 turtle eggs, carefully raise them in a climate-controlled hanger at the Kennedy Space Center, and release the hatchlings into the clean Atlantic waters off Florida's east coast. Now that project is well underway, and Discover Magazine has pictures of the first batch of hatchlings crawling toward the welcoming waves. But there's a chance all this do-gooding won't do any good. New Scientist found experts who argue that releasing them into the Atlantic rather than into the Gulf will screw up the turtles' navigation systems, which will prevent them from following their normal migratory routes."
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The Gulf's Great Turtle Relocation Project

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  • Which beach? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Grim Reefer2 ( 1195989 ) on Friday July 16, 2010 @06:54PM (#32933330)

    So will the return to the beach they were released from? Or back to the ones in the gulf? I suspect this will make for some very interesting research in the future.

  • by meerling ( 1487879 ) on Friday July 16, 2010 @06:56PM (#32933342)
    Maybe they'll end up establishing new populations in different locations.
    It's certainly better to give them the chance rather than simply let them be exterminated.

    I know, it's a complex situation with many variables that can't even be fully defined, much less accounted for. That's true, but we can only try to mitigate this disaster as best we can, or sit back and complain about those who are trying to fix it. Your choice.
  • always nay-sayers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:01PM (#32933428) Journal
    You are always going to have people complain, even if you came up with a 100% clean, 100% efficient new energy source there would be some people who complain the miss the taste of pollution or something. Will the turtles die?

    His view is backed up by evidence that suggests turtles are programmed from birth to follow a specific migratory path once in water. Indeed, turtles from different nesting sites seem to inherit different sets of navigational instructions.

    Basically, in the past they have exposed turtles (in tanks?) to magnetic fields and found that they follow the magnetic fields as if they were navigating through the ocean. It kind of surprises me that no one has ever taken a turtle from Texas and put it in the ocean in Florida just to see what would happen. Here is their chance: hope they pay attention to what the turtles do.

  • by Huntr ( 951770 ) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:02PM (#32933440)
    Sometimes doing SOMETHING is worse than not doing anything. Don't be pissed at ecologists who have legit concerns about the turtles. Save that for BP and the gov't response.
  • Re:A Waste Of Time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by garyisabusyguy ( 732330 ) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:12PM (#32933516)

    This study shows how the east coast turtles make their way to the gulf stream using; visual cues, wave direction and (finally) magnetic direction: []

    They do not show any info on how they make their way back.
    What information are you using to determine that they will just wander back to the gulf?

    At the very least this will give a great study on the 'homing' tendencies of turtles. Do they reurn to where they were hatched (learned behavior) or do they return to where their genetic forebearers lived (genetic imprinting)?

    What advantage do you see to allowing them to die? Is it simply less work for humans? And if those people were not already actively invovled in fixing the well or cleaning up sludge, what negative effect could it have on those efforts?

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:13PM (#32933520)

    Perhaps all those places need to send BP the bill.

  • by Asic Eng ( 193332 ) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:20PM (#32933584)
    Sometimes doing something can be worse than not doing anything - that can be true sometimes, but nobody has suggested it's the case here. However the question has been asked "Why not place them into an area that is thought to be part of their normal migratory route?" Which is an interesting point.

    Of course it's not like the US Fish and Wildlife Service hasn't considered that. [...] releasing the turtles on sand allows scientists to assess how they are coping with the move. The process also mimics turtles' natural behaviour.

    I don't know which side has it right, all involved appear to have arrived at their conclusions by thoroughly considering the alternatives. I don't think it's very useful to delude ourselves that we can determine the correct approach just from a quick glance at a headline. There are lots of complex issues around - that's just the way the world works.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:32PM (#32933664)

    then placed over a flame and lightly seasoned. Mmmm turtle soup.

  • Re:What Food? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FriendlyLurker ( 50431 ) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:34PM (#32933684)
    I have to wonder - if all the baby turtles natural predators are already dead, and we go release ~70'000 healthy hand nurtured healthy turtles in an ecosystem whose balance has been totally screwed up, perhaps for many decades to come... whether we are just going to be heaping more shit on top of what we have already dumped on the system. The ecosystem does not care that turtles have big teary looking eyes - those little beak's still have to eat something...
  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:40PM (#32933716) Homepage Journal

    Consider it risk mitigation. There's some risk relocating them and there's more certain risk NOT relocating them. They're quite unlikely to relocate all of them. This maximizes the odds of some surviving.

  • Re:What Food? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by The Grim Reefer2 ( 1195989 ) on Friday July 16, 2010 @08:09PM (#32933928)

    Indeed, and when those poor turtles have been exposed to all the toxic mutagens in the oil and the weird chemical dispersants that have been employed, we could all be in serious trouble once they become teenagers...


    True, but thy still have to find a rat to train them...

  • by rollingcalf ( 605357 ) on Friday July 16, 2010 @09:20PM (#32934282)

    Their survival rate is likely to be much higher than usual, because the eggs that are relocated in this project won't be dug up and eaten by animals, and the hatchlings also won't be killed by predators when making their way to the sea.

  • by whoda ( 569082 ) on Friday July 16, 2010 @10:25PM (#32934568) Homepage

    Putting non-native species into alternate natural environments has never led to any problems...

  • I expect that we'll never be able to tell whether this has done any good at all...

    Actually, if any turtle populations are established on the east coast, we'll know if it's done any good at all. Especially if populations decline in the gulf, which they are almost guaranteed to do.

  • by JasoninKS ( 1783390 ) on Saturday July 17, 2010 @10:41AM (#32936766)
    Even if the turtle's navigation is goofed because of the relocation, at least the people from this project are trying something. I can certainly applaud that. Better to give these turtles a fighting chance than sending them to definite doom.

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker