Is NOAA Scrubbing Dirty Turtles?

NOAA may be scrubbing the record of the BP disaster and suppressing documentation of the impact on turtles and whales. This possibility was revealed by Greenpeace this week, thanks to photos released by NOAA due to a FOIA submitted as part of GP’s Polluter Watch project, which also release hundreds of aerial impact shots last month.34 of the photos are available on this HuffPost slide show.Many of the photos are not currently available on official agency flickr or photo sites.That said, this turtle photo (right) and this dolphin photo (below) remain available through NOAA’s official feed. 2 years later, they remain heartbreaking, especially in light of the recent study which confirmed significant health impacts to Barataria Bay dolphins.One thing is clear, NOAA is downplaying the impacts of the BP disaster on turtles, while seeking to impose significant new regulations on coastal shrimpers, struggling with low shrimp prices and high fuel costs. Prompted by a lawsuit from Turtle Island Restoration Network (not to be confused with GRN), NOAA is proposing turtle excluder devices (TEDS) be installed on all skimmers and butterfly trawls, which would match what is already required by the state of Florida. GRN has weighed in on this in the past, as we were tracking turtle and dolphin mortality spikes in the wake of the BP disaster. Oddly, the topic of turtle deaths came up recently in an entirely different forum, as coastal contractor Shaw reported to the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority on the success of the barrier island restoration project, formerly known as Bobby & Billy’s Sand Berm Debacle. In the CPRA meeting it was reported that no turtles were killed in the process of creating the barriers. That is not true.We remain convinced that NOAA should keep their eye on BP and BP clean up efforts, such as berms and dispersants as the source of increased marine wildlife deaths. If TEDs are the best option to help turtles recover from a clear spike in mortality, then BP needs to pay for the gear transition, not the shrimpers.Aaron Viles is GRN’s Deputy Director. You can follow him on twitter here.

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