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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 cl xfcwsspj. pandora spillean 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.


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.


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."


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.


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."


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."

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Smoke Cartel has a variety of different style bubblers in the collection. Many of our bubblers are worked with fumed glass, sandblasted with unique patterns, or are crafted in the popular sidecar style. Some of our bubblers feature two chambers both equipped with high-functioning percolators. We’ve even got bubblers for concentrates, enabling concentrate smokers to enjoy their oils and waxes on the go. Want to learn more about bubblers? Check out our Knowledge Base article titled “Why Choose a Bubbler?”

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