Five years after Deepwater Horizon

Juvenile Kemp's ridley sea turtle oiled in the Deepwater Horizon spill.  Courtesy of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; Blair Witherington.
Juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtle oiled in the Deepwater Horizon spill. Courtesy of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; Blair Witherington.

By Kat Diersen, The Society for Conservation Biology’s North America Policy Program

Five years ago today, just before dawn, I was kneeling in the pristine white sand of a beach in the Florida panhandle, digging up a loggerhead sea turtle nest. Normally this sort of thing is discouraged. After all, most sea turtles are protected by the Endangered Species Act and it is a federal crime to disturb their nests. Federal and state wildlife officials go to great lengths to protect these nests from harm by hapless beachgoers and their pets. But on that morning five years ago I was part of a team working to systematically locate as many sea turtle nests in the Florida panhandle as possible and translocate their precious contents to a storage facility halfway across the state.

As I gingerly lifted each individual egg out of the nest and slowly, carefully lowered it into a specially designed cooler, it was hard to wrap my mind around the necessity of disturbing this beautiful and intact habitat. But 200 miles southwest of me, oil was gushing into the ocean from a well underneath what remained of the Deepwater Horizon rig. The explosion that cost eleven people their lives and would ultimately unleash over 200 million gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico had taken place one month earlier on April 20, 2010. Nobody knew when the well would finally be capped.

Neither, at that time, did anyone know how far the oil would spread. The Louisiana Coast was already being blackened by it and some models were predicting it could spread as far east and south as the Florida —> Read More

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