We learned last week that as BP and the Coast Guard struggle to clean up the oil in the Gulf of Mexico, endangered sea turtles along with other wildlife are being burned alive. The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) has filed suit in order to bring an immediate halt to these actions.
“Like everyone else in the country, we are despondent and don’t want [the situation in the Gulf] to become worse by a lack of due diligence by BP, the Coast Guard, and others involved in the cleanup,” says AWI Wildlife Biologist D.J. Schubert.
AWI, along with the Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network and the Animal Legal Defense Fund will present their case against BP as well as Admirals of the United States Coast Guard at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
In an effort to contain the oil spill and prevent it from reaching shorelines and delicate marshes, ships have been trailing booms to corral the oil. They then bring the booms far into the ocean—12 miles past the Deepwater Horizon Rig—to an area designated the “Burn Box,” and set it aflame.
However, oil is not the only thing burning. Wildlife is also corralled in those booms and burned alive.
This violates Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act, which states that it is illegal to “damage or destroy any species of fish or wildlife” labeled endangered.
“The evidence we’ve gotten from ship captains has shown that there are turtles being caught up in the booms and while healthy ones may be able to dive and escape, those covered in oil are too sick and lethargic.”
The suit against the Coast Guard claims that they have violated their mandatory obligations under the Clean Water Act, which states that they must “minimize risk and damage to fish, wildlife, and their habitat.”
AWI hopes that the temporary injunction filed will continue until BP and the Coast Guard come into compliance with those laws.
“We do not want to flat out stop burning,” Schubert says. “We want to force BP and the Coast Guard to take sufficient action in observing what they pull in and get any wildlife out of there before they begin the burn.”
Already, the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem has undergone a colossal amount of damage. But AWI continues to fight, to ensure that one day life will return to normal.
“Mother Nature has a remarkable ability to clean herself, but there is such a significant amount of oil and chemical dispersant that the destruction of the habitat will leave parts of the Gulf out of commission for a long time,” says Schubert, who still has hope for the future. “At some point, decades from now, I believe that the Gulf will rebound.”
But how many of its native species will be around to see it?