Gulf Oil Spill Restoration Fund in Action

NWF’s Gulf Oil Spill Restoration Fund Used to Help Save Sea Turtles

10-07-2010 // Jon Brett
Sea Turtle Rescued

Following one of the country’s worst environmental disasters, the National Wildlife Federation established the Gulf Oil Spill Restoration Fund to support the immediate response and long term on-the-ground work to protect wildlife and habitats impacted by the spill. Donations to the fund have been set aside to support the following efforts:

  • NWF's continued efforts to restore vulnerable nesting and breeding grounds as well as other delicate ecosystems found throughout the Gulf Coast for water birds, sea turtles and other animals.
  • NWF's public education about the Gulf oil disaster and its impact on wildlife.
  • Policy work at the national and state level to support restoration of habitat in the Gulf Coast and better protection of our waters and coastlines.

    One project of utmost importance financed by the fund was the work conducted by the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) based in Gainesville, FL.

The STC was instrumental in organizing and managing the Sea Turtle Relocation Program, one of the most noteworthy efforts to save animals impacted by the Gulf oil disaster. The program was carried out by carefully extracting eggs from threatened nesting areas in the Gulf and transporting them to an incubation center at Kennedy Space Center, on the East Coast of Florida, where the hatchlings could be safely released into the Atlantic Ocean. While the STC had the manpower and expertise in dealing with sea turtles they lacked in one critical area: funding.

"The Sea Turtle Conservancy used financial support from National Wildlife Federation to help pay for its direct assistance with an unprecedented effort to rescue and relocate hundreds of sea turtles’ nests from the Gulf Coast," said David Godfrey, director of the Seat Turtle Conservancy. "These nests contained emerging hatchlings that would have encountered deadly amounts of oil had they not been rescued. Thousands of eggs were safely transported to Florida’s Atlantic Coast and released into waters unaffected by the spill. Specifically, funding from NWF contributed to the construction of hundreds of specially-designed coolers and cushioned carriers used to transport tens of thousands of sea turtle eggs."

The NWF grant also helped pay for embedding experienced biologists into the region to assist in locating and excavating nests that were in harm’s way.

While the Gulf oil disaster has certainly impacted sea turtles in the region, there are many other threats to their survival that were present long before the spill and will continue to threaten the turtle population for years to come.

"Although the oil spill has been sealed, there continues to be many lingering threats to sea turtle survival,” said Godfrey. “Habitat loss, lethal interactions with commercial fishing operations, and marine pollution all pose serious long-term threats to sea turtles. Tens of thousands of loggerhead turtles were given a fighting chance at survival as a result of efforts carried out by the Sea Turtle Conservancy with support and assistance from NWF. However, the ultimate fate of these turtles depends on a continued commitment to reducing the other manmade threats they will encounter in life. STC, NWF and their supporters must continue reducing threats to sea turtles to give these turtles a suitable and survivable home."

To learn more about the Sea Turtle Conservancy's rescue efforts during the spill, watch this video:


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