Whale Shark Monitoring
The world’s largest fish, whale sharks swim across huge swaths of the globe year after year. They are particularly vulnerable to the effects of offshore oil spills. Whale sharks migrate through the northern Gulf waters each summer to feed on spawning reef fish (already severely impacted by the spill) and other seasonal sources of food. Because they spend a considerable amount of time grazing at the surface of the water, the risks of ingesting oil are likely to be high. Together with core partners, WCS has proposed to authorities overseeing the spill response that we conduct aerial surveys and other assessments for these sharks, as well as manta rays, in and around the region.
Sea Turtle Recovery
WCS’s New York Aquarium is working with other members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to provide a safe haven for sea turtles that become sickened by the spill. Once oiled animals have received initial treatment, we plan to take them into our aquarium facilities to monitor their health and help them recover. WCS is also working to direct increased federal resources to the joint National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) Wildlife Branch of the Unified Command and establish a new grants fund for zoos and aquariums that assist in wildlife rescue, rehabilitation, or research.
Safe Harbor for Threatened Species
By bolstering populations of imperiled species in other parts of the Caribbean and throughout their range, we can help ensure their survival. For example, with all six species of sea turtles occurring in the U.S. listed under the Endangered Species Act, protecting the turtles’ remaining nesting beaches and feeding grounds has become critical. In Nicaragua and Panama, WCS has worked with local authorities to create protected areas for green and hawksbill turtles, and to reduce poaching by developing alternative livelihoods and protein sources for people who rely on sea turtle meat and eggs. We are now redoubling our efforts to increase funding for the Marine Turtle Conservation Act through supplemental funding for the Gulf response.
Working with Industry
As a global organization working in key seascapes from the Atlantic coast of Africa to the reefs of the Indian Ocean, we work to inform policy discussions on the impacts of offshore oil and gas development around the world. Based on our reputation for science-based conservation and our on-the-ground presence in more than 60 countries, WCS has developed working relationships with oil and gas companies to research and mitigate the effects of their practices on wildlife. For example, in the Gulf of Guinea and Angola, WCS is helping to set industry standards that are sensitive to the needs of the region’s humpback whales and leatherback turtles. These collaborative efforts are essential to ensuring such a disaster will not happen again.
In the coming weeks, Congress will decide how much funding zoos and aquariums will receive to rescue and rehabilitate oiled animals. Without this critical support, the wildlife of the Gulf will suffer.
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