Science

BP Oil Spill Pushing Kemp's Ridley Turtles Toward Extinction

By | Nov 20, 2014 03:00 AM EST
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Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle

Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle

Scientists and environmentalists gathered Tuesday to say the worst oil spill in U.S. history could further reduce the already small number of the world's most endangered sea turtle.

The Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle is both the official Texas sea turtle and one of the most endangered species of sea turtles in the world. They have been nesting less and less on Texan shores since 2010 when the Deepwater-Horizon oil platform owned by British Petroleum spewed millions of tons of oil onto the Gulf of Mexico in a spectacular accident that also claimed human lives.

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The BP oil spill might have affected as many as 7,000 Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles in the Gulf of Mexico, said a report at the Second International Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Symposium. The report added researchers found oil in the shells of 29 sea turtles that returned to feed in the area of the oil spill in 2011 and 2012.

Researchers, however, said there was no way to definitively say that the oil came from the Deepwater-Horizon oil spill. They intend to get blood samples from turtles for analysis and to confirm the origin of the oil, according to Kimberly Reich, Sea Turtle Research Lab director at Texas A&M University in Galveston.

Kemp's Ridleys Turtles move through the Gulf of Mexico and eat clumps of Sargassum, which means they were easily exposed to the spill. He added that another 2,000 turtles from other Mexican coastlines could have also moved into the oil spill area.

Researchers said there could be other factors involved in the drop in the turtles' population. These factors include diminishing food sources, natural variability, unusually cold temperatures and the accidental capture of the turtles in fishing gear.

Researchers warned the Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle population is declining to an extent that could eventually lead to its extinction after a comeback and years of effort to save it.

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