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WATER WORLD
Researchers use forensic science to track turtles
by Brooks Hays
Washington (UPI) Nov 6, 2017


Trump admin sued over stalling to protect sea turtles
Miami (AFP) Nov 3, 2017 - A US environmental group filed suit Friday against the Donald Trump administration for allegedly stalling on a deal to protect sea turtles from getting trapped in shrimp nets.

Oceana relaunched its lawsuit against the US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross -- who also heads the US Fisheries Service -- after no action was taken on a deal struck in September 2016.

Then, the federal government, headed by President Barack Obama, had agreed to release a proposed rule to protect sea turtles in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico by December 15, 2016.

But Trump took office in January 2017, and the final regulations were not released by the mid-June 2017 deadline, so Oceana pressed ahead with its lawsuit Friday.

"At this point, every single day of delay means more threatened and endangered sea turtles dying preventable deaths in fishing nets," said Oceana campaign director Lora Snyder.

"All that remains is approval of the rule from the White House Office of Management and Budget, yet the Trump administration has taken ample time without taking this straightforward step. Any further stalling is unacceptable."

The proposed rule would require special escape hatches for turtles in US skimmer, pusher-head and wing net shrimp trawls.

Oceana said adding these Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) to shrimp nets would save as many as 2,500 endangered and threatened sea turtles every year.

Less than half of the US shrimp fleet is currently required to use them.

The proposed rule would extend the requirement to about 5,800 other boats in the southeast US region.

The agreement to add more TEDs came after a 2015 Oceana lawsuit that alleged the US government had violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to adequately consider the risk posed to sea turtles by shrimp fishing.

Biologists tracking vulnerable turtle species in the Mediterranean have borrowed a technique from forensic scientists. By measuring "stable isotope ratios," scientists at the University of Exeter were able to determine where turtles were traveling from to breed Cyprus.

Isotopes are variants of the same chemical element. Each variant boasts a different number of neutrons in its nucleus. The ratios between different isotopes serve as chemical signatures, some of which are unique to specific environments. In biology, these certain isotope ratios can help scientists identify where a specimen has been and what it's been eating.

Thousands of sea turtles travel to Alagadi, a beach on the north coast of Cyprus, to breed every year. But the turtles come from a variety of foraging grounds, most traveling hundreds of miles.

Scientists have previously used satellite tracking to identify the turtle's most popular feeding grounds. But when researchers at Exeter measured the isotope ratios of breeding turtles in Cyprus, they identified a new signature.

"This meant we knew where many of the turtles went to forage for food, but our preliminary analysis using stable isotope ratios showed a major foraging area had been missed," Brendan Godley, director of Exeter's Center for Ecology and Conservation, said in a news release.

They used satellite trackers to trace the unique ratio to Lake Bardawil, a shallow saline lake on the northern coast of Egypt.

"A large proportion of turtles had isotope ratios that did not correspond to sites previously identified, and we tracked five of them," Godley said. "Five out of five went to Lake Bardawil."

The ratios measured by scientists proved surprisingly consistent, suggesting most turtles continue to return to the same foraging site year after year.

Researchers believe their latest findings -- detailed this week in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series -- can serve as a model for future studies using stable isotope ratios.

"Using a combination of this analysis and satellite tracking gives us more reliable data, and this can be used to measure the success of future conservation efforts," said Exeter researcher Phil Bradshaw.

WATER WORLD
Trump admin sued over stalling to protect sea turtles
Miami (AFP) Nov 3, 2017
A US environmental group filed suit Friday against the Donald Trump administration for allegedly stalling on a deal to protect sea turtles from getting trapped in shrimp nets. Oceana relaunched its lawsuit against the US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross - who also heads the US Fisheries Service - after no action was taken on a deal struck in September 2016. Then, the federal government, ... read more

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