BP Agrees to Stop Burning Endangered Sea Turtles Alive

Posted on July 2, 2010

Animal Legal Defense Fund Announces Temporary Reprieve for Wildlife Being Illegally Killed in Gulf Clean-Up Efforts

For Immediate Release

Lisa Franzetta, Animal Legal Defense Fund

Sea turtleNew Orleans – The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), along with the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Turtle Island Restoration Network achieved a temporary win for endangered turtles in federal court this morning in their lawsuit against British Petroleum and the U.S. Coast Guard for burning critically endangered sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico, in violation of the Endangered Species Act and other federal laws. The parties have agreed that on an expedited basis, the Coast Guard will convene a group of scientists, with the plaintiffs’ input, to determine the best protocol for ensuring no endangered sea turtles will be killed during burn containment practices. That protocol will be announced on a very fast track for public comment so that it can be finalized as soon as possible.

As part of BP’s efforts to contain the massive oil spill that continues to devastate the Gulf of Mexico, BP has been using “controlled burns” whereby oil is corralled by fire resistant booms dragged through the water by shrimp boats and then lit on fire. Endangered sea turtles, including the Kemp’s ridley, one of the rarest sea turtles on Earth, are caught in the gathered oil and unable to escape when the oil is set ablaze.

BP and the Coast Guard agreed in meetings held in New Orleans this morning that, because of bad weather in the Gulf, there will be no more burning until at least next Tuesday, July 6. By Tuesday, the defendants will inform ALDF and the other animal protection groups if they will be able to have qualified scientists to act as observers for every burn boat to ensure that all turtles will be identified and removed before any burns resume; if they cannot make that assurance, the parties will be returning to federal court.

“We are thrilled to announce a temporary reprieve for these endangered turtles whose habitat has already been devastated by the Gulf oil spill,” says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “BP and the Coast Guard are taking a very important step in the right direction by committing to investigate protocols that will allow them to continue in their clean-up efforts without violating the Endangered Species Act by illegally burning sea turtles alive.”

The plaintiff groups are being represented by the Washington, D.C. based public interest law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal. ALDF was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and advancing interests of animals through the legal system. A copy of the complaint is available upon request.

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