Kemp’s Ridley NRDA Assessment
Deepwater Horizon Kemp’s Ridley Injury Assessment Work Plan To Determine Potential Exposure and Injuries of Nesting Kemp’s Ridley Turtles and Their Nests
The Kemp’s Ridley Injury Assessment Work Plan is being conducted to obtain data for the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resources Damage Assessment (DWH NRDA). This work will support the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Trustees in their efforts to determine potential exposure and injuries of nesting Kemp’s ridley turtles and their nests. The data will be used to determine damages owed by the responsible parties, including BP.
The Kemp’s Ridley Injury Assessment Work Plan is an adjunct to ongoing efforts conducted on behalf of the Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery at the Padre Island National Seashore. Thus, the DWH NRDA assessment work constitutes a subset of the overall Kemp’s ridley monitoring program and includes collection of data that supplement the typical assessment completed annually.
Two years (2010 and 2011) of this NRDA assessment of injury due to potential exposure to MC 252 oil have been completed. This (2012) is the third year of assessment.
Comparison of post-spill data to pre-spill baseline data (i.e., pre-spill) is very important. National Park Service Padre Island National Seashore has been home to a successful nesting colony of Kemp’s ridley for years. Information on Kemp’s ridley nesting success and habitat utilization collected prior to this 2010 spill provides valuable baseline for this sea turtle species.
Potential injury to Gulf coast Kemp’s ridley sea turtles due to Deepwater Horizon oil may range from mortality to sub-lethal stress and chronic impairment, including deleterious effects on reproduction and recruitment.
Sea turtles can be exposed to chemicals in oil in several ways:
- Internal exposure by consuming oil or contaminated prey or inhaling volatile oil,
- External exposure to sea turtles or eggs from oiled nesting beaches,
- External exposure by swimming in oil and having oil directly on the skin and body, and
- Maternal transfer of contaminants to embryos and eggs.
In addition to chemical exposure, response activities such as collecting and burning oil at sea, skimmer operations, boom deployment, berm construction, increased light at night on or near nesting beaches, equipment use and storage as a result of beach cleanup operations and boat traffic could directly injure sea turtles, block access to turtle nesting beaches and/or cause behavioral changes.
The Padre Island National Seashore staff will:
- Conduct physical evaluation on females that come ashore to nest,
- Collect carapace (shell) swipes from nesting adults turtles with visible oil and turtles receiving transmitters; collect visible surface oil from shells,
- collect blood samples,
- collect scute and other tissue samples from nesting turtles,
- collect residual tissue samples from eggshells, non-viable eggs, and dead hatchlings,
- Affix satellite transmitters to and track 10 females during post nesting season movements,
- Collect carapace swipes from turtles receiving transmitters, and
- Collect GPS locations for nests.
US Geological Survey researchers will perform analysis on samples for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and fingerprinting for MC252 oil.