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Press: Biologist urges students to help save turtles


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Posted by Wes von Papinešu on March 27, 2001 at 16:35:22:

THE DAILY NEWS (Lebanon) 23 March 01 Biologist urges students to help save turtles (Jason M. Sipe)
Palmyra: Human exploitation of sea turtles is threatening their existence, a marine biologist told a group at Palmyra Middle School Thursday night. But efforts to save the endangered species are working.
Dr. Jeffrey Seminoff, 33, a conservationist and marine biologist with the Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research in Florida, fascinated students, parents and teachers with a description of his work helping to save five endangered Pacific Ocean species of sea turtles.
His speech was sponsored by a conservation organization called Earthwatch Institute, which also provides Seminoff with volunteers to help in his sea turtle conservation efforts.
Seminoff, who does his research on the Baja peninsula straddling the Gulf of California and Pacific Ocean, explained how every four years the sea turtles travel 10,000 miles to nest on beaches, laying as many as 800 eggs.
The eggs hatch on a moonlit night, said Seminoff, and the baby turtles follow the moonlight into the ocean. Like salmon returning up-river to spawn, the sea turtles will mysteriously return to that same beach to lay their own eggs, he said.
One of the longest living animals on Earth -- sometimes living up to 150 years -- sea turtles are met with many survival challenges, said Seminoff. Some threats are from nature, but other are not.
"During every stage of their development, they are impacted by humans." Seminoff told the group.
Even if they can make it past the egg stage, where they are in constant danger of being stolen for consumption as aphrodisiacs, they are still never safe, Seminoff said.
As adults they are often captured by poachers, who kill them for their prized meat and ornamental shell, or they fall prey to, as Seminoff puts it, "indiscriminate" shrimping or fishing nets.
But Seminoff and his colleagues are putting up a good fight.
He, along with the many volunteers from Earthwatch, have united other scientists, fishermen, tourists, and the community to form a consortium whose mission is "to establish sustainable conservation programs."
According to Seminoff, these efforts have been successful.
The shrimping industry, in particular, has been cooperating with Sea Turtle conservationists, and have developed a new kind of Turtle-friendly net, called a T.E.D., or Turtle Excluder Device.
But, Seminoff says, Lebanon Valley residents can play a role in conservation as well.
"Simple stuff that you pour down your drain contributes to ground water pollution. The tributaries to the ocean are close to here. Watch where you dump or throw stuff; take the extra couple steps to the garbage can."
To help save Sea turtles, in particular, he suggests that we only buy shrimp with the "Turtle-safe" label. Like the "Dolphin-safe" label found on cans of tuna, it informs consumers that only Turtle-friendly nets were used in the collection of shrimp.
Seminoff's message found an enthusiastic ear with eleven year-old Anthony Mecca, a sixth-grade student at the middle school.
"I want to become a scientist." he said after Seminoff's inspiring talk.
The lecture also provided an excellent learning tool for Anthony's sixth-grade science teacher, Chris Sherwood.
"Basically we were teaching the children about conservation toward marine life. Dr. Seminoff's lecture was a great way to teach them firsthand."
Another sixth-grade science teacher, Judy Woland, agreed. A former volunteer for the Earthwatch organization, Woland was instrumental in organizing his visit to the middle school.
Woland said she joined Seminoff's conservation efforts so she could "communicate with her students from the field." The experience was an exciting but, admittedly "unglamorous" adventure with the sea turtles of Baja, she added.
Seminoff kept Woland's class on the edge of their seats Thursday, and will likely do the same in Sherwood's class today.




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