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Sea Turtles in the Hawaiian Islands

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    DistinctionFor many reasons the human race could be called a blessing. Greatadvanced in technology, medicine and even the fact we are the most sophisticatedspecies on the planet. Are we a gift to planet Earth, or far from it? With castamounts of pollution and destruction of the planet, not to mention unthinkableacts of violence and hate that has been going on since the beginning of time.

    Are we really as sophisticated and important as we have led ourselves tobelieve? Are we any better than any other creature because we are moretechnologically advanced? Is the human race a blessing? Humans have destroyedand endangered more species on our planet than any other species or group, withour continuous pollution and lack of respect for out own environment. One areaof the world affected by our careless habits is our coastlines and the marinehabitats that vast amounts of species rely on. These particular areas of theworld are being destroyed because humans dont seem to care as long as theymake a couple of dollars in the process. Oil spills like the one in the PrinceWilliam Sound on the coast of Alaska and Hawaiian sea turtles and their manytroubles with humans are just some examples of human carelessness and theconsequences that the environment, particularly marine wildlife incur, whichoften are fatal. I chose this particular subject because I find the ocean andits unique and rare inhabitants to be interesting. Every coastline has itsone unique species and no two areas are the same. I wanted to learn more abouthow humans are destroying the habitats of these unique creatures. I found thatall species are in someway being threatened by human dominance and carelessness.

    From the common flounder or sea star you can find when you walk across the beachto a rare fish like the coelacanth (prehistoric fish that was believed to beextinct until one was caught off the coat of Madagascar by a local commercialfisherman until in the 1950s). The ocean can be a calm and loving but caneasily turn into a vicious killer within seconds. All of these things are what Ifind so interesting about the ocean. I wanted to find out why people cancontinue to destroy it even though they know the effect of their actions. Iguess some people are ignorant and just dont care if they destroy the thingsthat make our environment so beautiful. One example of our careless destructionof our environment is the Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska in1989. The Prince William Sound still shows signs of the oil spill tem yearslater. Most species have recovered since the spill, but many are stillsuffering. The Harbor Seal and herring are just two who are vital to thesurvival of all the species in the area. Herring are the main source of food formany species in the area, including humans. (Mitchell, p.98) “The ecosystem isgradually recovering from the spill,” says Molly McCammon, an Executivedirector of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, “but it will never bethe same as it was twenty years ago.” The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill TrusteeCouncil was founded to oversee the use of nine hundred million dollars to thearea by the government after settling with the Exxon Company for one billiondollars in criminal and civil damages. One serious problem in the aftermath ofExxon Valdez is the decline of herring. (The table shows the chave inpopulations of Prince William Sound before and after the Exxon Valdez spill.)Even more disturbing than the fact herring arent recovering as well as otherspecies like them is the fact they were on the decline before the accident. Thiswas a major issue because herring are the center of the ecosystem in the Sound.

    Many biologists now believe that over fishing of the herring has contributed totheir decline. The Pacific Herring is just one species of the area, but if yousee how important that one species is to the ecosystem of the Alaskan coast thanyou begin to see how important all species are to their particular habitats.

    This is just one example, but if you take a species out of its environment, thena chain reaction would occur, hurting the species around it. Another speciesthat biologists are beginning to study wit the money received from the ExxonValdez settlement is the Alaskan Salmon. The oil spill has left the AlaskanSalmon on the decline until recently, but still the species is reeling. “Thelast two years have been extremely positive for the Alaskan Salmonpopulation,” stated one Alaskan biologists. But her concerns were more focusedon the salmon offspring, which had been effected by the spill. Fry, as seen inthe left vial, were damaged by the oil. The fry still come in contact with oilwhen oil pockets seep into some intertidal spawning streams. “These pocketsare like mines,” says Jeffrey Short, a scientist with the National MarineFisheries Service. Scientist discovered the oil caused genetic defects insalmon. Many species in the Prince William Sound are still recovering from thespill. This is just one spill and you can see the devastation it has made uponits ecosystem. This has been called one of the worst oil spills in history. Butyou can imagine there has been numerous spills that are almost as areas mightnever fully recover from the spill on their ecosystem. The devastation of an oilspill is just one of many causes of marine destruction that humans are guiltyof. Many other species suffer from damaged habitats. Another example of humansdestroying their environment and the unique species that live there is HawaiianSea turtles. The turtles are becoming endangered because of loss of habitat. Theoverwhelming presence of humans in the turtles habitat is making is harderfor turtles to find areas where they can lay their eggs. The loss of nestingsites if hurting the reproduction of sea turtles because unpopulated beaches arebecoming harder to find. Sea turtles have an affinity for certain beaches andwhen they cannot lay their eggs there they have to find new areas which can taketime. Other reasons why the turtles are being threatened are pollution of theocean and netting. Pollution in the form of debris is killing turtles. They caningest the plastic debris and it makes it hard to get the nourishment neededfrom the food they eat. Netting is another killer of turtles. Fishing nets setout by commercial fisherman are a definite killer of sea turtles in the HawaiianIslands. ( Erosion of beaches also hurts the seaturtle population. The lack of beach force turtles to lay their eggs in asmaller area. When humans try to stop or reduce erosion it disturbs the turtleseven more. Sea walls, canals, jetties, and sandbagging are all things that areused by humans to stop erosion, but they are hurting the turtles more than theyare helping them. They need dry land in order to lay their eggs and thesestructures are deducing land even further. Fibropapilloma Tumors are a seriousthreat and are beginning to show up on turtles in Hawaii and other areas withlarge numbers of sea turtles. They were first seen in turtles around 1930, butit wasnt until 1980 that the tumors began to show up in epidemic proportions.

    The green turtles were the only known species to have the tumors, but it hasrecently been discovered in other turtle species. The most effected areas of theworld are Hawaii, Florida, and Australia. ( of these threats to turtle population are hurting their hopes of survival.

    But people out to help the sea turtles such as Denise Parker who works with amarine turtle program in Honolulu, Hawaii, have worked hard and the populationof marine sea turtles has actually been on the rise in recent years. Theturtles population is coming up from endangered and threatened to a safenumber, but that isnt far enough for many who care about the turtles. Theycontinue to help increase the population because they know they would begin todecline again if they didnt have any help. Many groups such as the MarineTurtles Research Program and the National Marine Fisheries Service are helpingto restore the turtles in Hawaii. There are also many individuals whose workwith the sea turtles have helped in preserving them and their naturalenvironment. One of these people is Ken Nichols. Nichols is a supporter ofturtles and he is trying to make the people aware of the environment in theHawaiian Islands. He feels that the most important thing we can do is conservethe wilderness and beaches from expansion. We need to educate people about theturtles especially children. When asked about how we can save the environmentand the habitat of turtles as well as other species Nichols said, “This isobviously a difficult task as the human population continues to grow, whichmeans we are constantly expanding into wild areas which support bio-diversity ofall types. I believe the greatest task is education of children and moreefficient use of the existing areas we are using.” These two ideas, are goodexamples of how the human race destroys the environment around them. We continueto hurt our wildlife, but there are people out there to fight against thepollution and destruction caused by large corporations and businesses. TheEndangered Species Act of 1973 has helped tremendously in the battle forsurvival of species like the turtles in Hawaii as well as other threatened andendangered species of out planet. ( This actprohibits the further destruction or death of the species. By the EndangeredSpecies Act, citizens of the United States are prohibited from taking anendangered or threatened species, declared by the U.S. Fish and WilidlifeService, from its environment whether on United States soil or in its waters.

    Punishment if caught breaking the lwas instead in this act are as follows;25,000 dollars if caught violating the rules listed above, 12,000 forknowinglyparticipating in the importing or exporting of such species. Any person whootherwise violates any provision of this Act, or any regulation, permit, orcertificate issued hereunder, may be assessed a civil penalty by the Secretaryof not more than $500 for each such violation. ( this act is a great step towards the restoration of threatened andendangered species many feel the act isnt worth the money. A proposedamendment to the Endangered Species Act threatened many aspects of the project.

    The proposed “amendment” was an attempt to undermine the project of fundingand political support. The amendment to section 403 of the Endangered SpeciesAct would literally wipe out many of the endangered species protected by thisbill. “The sea turtles of Hawaii wouldnt stand a chance if the amendmentwould have passed,” said supporters of the Endangered Species Act andendangered species around the world, “We cant just let them take back whatwe have worked so hard for.” Shrimp nets alone kill 55,000 turtles a year inthe Hawaiian Islands. ( If the EndangeredSpecies Act is undermined where will these endangered species turn? Somesenators who support the amendments to undermine the act are back in congressfor a second term and many feel the amendments to the Endangered Species Actwill be brought up again and re-voted. (http://www, SenatorSlade Gorton was one supporter of the bill to undermine the Endangered SpeciesAct. Are these accusations of inhumanity and lack of care for nature completelytrue about Senator Gorton? On Senator Gortons web site (,he shows his compassion for nature. A letter thanking him for his help on savingtrees and several streams in his home state of Washington from the Sierra clubwas one such article bringing up questions of whether he was so bad. Others seemto think otherwise, but it is hard to tell without actually knowing him or allhis work. Many other laws and acts have been implemented to stop the decline inpopulation of many endangered and threatened species. One it the Marine MammalAct, which protects the many species in our oceans. The Clean Water and CleanAir acts were also adopted to help protect these endangered species from humanthreats. One example of how humans have hurt many different species of animalsis pesticides, especially the pesticide DDT, which was used in World War II tokeep insects away from soldiers. After the war, the pesticide was brought backto the United States and used very carelessly. DDT seeped into the streams andcontaminated almost every species that ate fish or other animals that had beeninfected with DDT. From the contaminated fish the pesticide went up the foodchain and began killing off the bald eagles. After the substance DDT wasnationally banned in 1973 the bald eagle has begun to make a comeback like mostof the other species affected by our carelessness. (Discovery, “The BaldEagle”). Just because the Bald Eagle is the symbol of our country does thatmean we have more of an obligation to protect it than the sea turtles? Hopefullywe will be able to stop the amendments one more time, but if they are made whatwill happen to the animals that depend on it? We have the obligations to protectthese animals. We have placed them in this situation and it is our fault many ofthese species are endangered today. We cannot continue to let them slip away ifwe can do something about it. Many organizations are trying to keep these lawsin place. Others who feel that our money should go to more worthy causes, eventhough we personally are responsible for the decline in many species. I think weneed to support the laws that are in effect as of right now and try to getbetter funding for the organizations that are already in place. We dont neednew laws, we need to support and help fund the ones we already have. The U.S.

    Fish and Wildlife Service is one of the big organizations that helps protect theendangered species as well as helping to educate and fund other smallorganizations that can do their part as well. It may not be easy to get fundingfor programs like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but we can achieve thisgoal if we work hard. A good example of how we can help to preserve ourendangered wildlife is we can implement a tax that will provide money to theseprograms. We can add a tax to companies who contribute to the destruction of ourenvironment. For example, if a company produces pollution they should be forcedto pay a tax. We can place a standard tax for all companies and corporations whodo this or we can base the amount owed by the amount of pollution or amount ofdestruction caused by the corporation on the environment. For companies that weare unable to tell how much exactly contribute to the destruction of theenvironment, we can require a base sum. A starting base sum could be fivehundred dollars a year for all the companies who contribute to the destroying ofthe Earth. We can assemble a committee of U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents toassess the amount of pollution a company produces and then a fitting cost forthat pollution. It might take a little while to put this proposal into effect.

    If we anticipated the slow advancement of passing the law in congress it wouldtake six or seven years to implement this law. It wouldnt take a lot ofmoney, but definitely some money would be required. It would take severalthousand to advertise if it wasnt donated by a company who felt stronglyabout the issue at hand. I would think an estimate of about $500,00-60,000dollars would easily cover the expenses of advertising, salaries for workers andany other expenses. Donations and fundraisers would be used to accumulate enoughmoney to get the support of the people. When I discussed my proposal with myfriend, she felt that it was a good idea and that the organizations like theU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service need the money to study and set up programs tosave endangered species and these programs need money. She felt it would be hardto get the bill passed because congressmen have ties with big corporations thatpollute and they wouldnt have to pay fees. So most likely the proposal wouldbe stopped. Although she didnt see the bill being passed she said that if weaccumulate enough money to advertise and get the support of the people,congressmen would be forced to vote for the bill or they might not be reelected.

    If she has strong feelings about this subject, Im sure the majority of thissociety is concerned about the environment and about our future. We need to tryand get funds for programs and organizations that help endangered and threatenedspecies. Many organizations rely on donations and money from supporters. We needto find ways to get more money for these programs and the proposal of taxes oncompanies who pollute is just one possibility. Everyone contributes to thedestruction of the environment and we all have to do our part to help thespecies we are killing off. Species like the Pacific Salmon, who were threatenedby the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989. As well as other species like the seaturtles in Hawaii who were on the verge of extinction until a recent turn aroundbecause of help from organizations and individuals. Individuals who take theburden upon their shoulders and make it their business to make up for all thepeople who could care less what happens to their environment. We need to protectour environment form the people who seek to destroy it for money and success. Ithink the beauty of the ocean is worth saving. Every creature and every uniquespecies is a creature worth saving. We dont have the right to kill those whoarent as smart or sophisticated as us. They have just as mush right to theEarth as we do. We dont have the right to over fish herring in Alaska or cutdown all the trees in rain forests just for money and the profit these resourcescreate.


    Interview with Ken Nichols, a known marine sea turtle activists and protector ofenvironment of the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii.


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