Thursday, March 11, 2010

Environmental groups call for a halt to the Juno Beach nourishment project in the wake of Leatherback sea turtle death

Press Release
March 11, 2010 - Juno Beach, FL

Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Reef Rescue, Cry of the Water and a host of sea turtle conservation groups sent a join letter today to the US Army Corp of Engineers requesting an investigation into the death of an adult male leatherback sea turtle and asking that dredging in the area be suspended until turtle safeguards are implemented.

On March 9, 2010 the dive charter boat Narcosis responded to reports of an adult male leatherback sea turtle floating on the surface next to the dredge borrow area for the Juno beach nourishment project. The Narcosis crew arrived on-scene accompanied by a Florida Law Enforcement vessel. Due to the size of the turtle, estimated to weigh as much as 1,000 pounds, it could not be lifted onboard. Narcosis lashed the turtle to the stern and towed it to the Riviera Beach Marina where FWC took possession. The turtle was placed in a FWC truck with a forklift provided by marina staff. The turtle was transported to the University of Florida in Gainesville where a necropsy will be performed. There was no immediate evidence as to the cause of death, but blood was observed on the face of the turtle.

The location of the dead turtle next to the Juno dredge area raises concern

An apparently healthy adult male leatherback turtle found dead next to the dredge area causes the environmental groups to strongly suspect the dredge likely had a role to play in the turtle’s demise. On January 8, 2010 a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle was killed by the dredge in the same area prompting a shutdown of the project while a faulty turtle exclusion devise was repaired. “This well may be the second turtle killed in connection with the project that we are aware of “said Ed Tichenor, director of Palm Beach County Reef Rescue whose volunteers documented the recovery of the leatherback.

Little protection afforded for endangered sea turtles congregating offshore during breeding season

March 1 marks the beginning of turtle nesting season in Palm Beach County and beachfront residents are required to turn off lights or face penalties. However, the Juno project has been allowed to continue beyond March 1. The project which is months behind schedule and less than half completed is not expected to end until mid-April at the earliest. According to the permit issued for the Juno project increased beach patrols and nest relocation are added requirements the contractor must meet to protect nesting females after March 1. But according to the environmental groups these conditions are inadequate to protect male turtles (which do not come ashore) and females congregated in the nearshore environment during the day. In fact, sea turtles during the breeding season spend the majority of time in the coastal waters where they become vulnerable to dredging activities.

Link to US Army Corp of Engineers letter from environmental groups with attachments:

Link to leatherback turtle recovery photo slideshow:

Palm Beach County
Boynton Beach, Florida 33425
(561) 699-8559