Saturday, August 29, 2015

State aquariums, parks and others championing efforts to protect sea turtles

Environmentally Speaking 

A news blog from the N.C. Dept. of Environment & Natural Resources

State aquariums, parks and others championing efforts to protect sea turtles
The Outer Banks have long been a favorite destination for tourists, thanks to the miles of undisturbed sandy beaches and the opportunity to relax and experience the natural world.
Each year, some people who visit the Outer Banks witness something rare when adult sea turtles come to the barrier islands to lay their eggs.
Survival is difficult for sea turtles, however, as only one in every 1,000 turtle hatchlings will survive, and those that do live face numerous man-made and natural threats during their lifetimes.
But local, state and federal government agencies are working together to help ensure the safety of these endangered species. 
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission along with state park officials, the National Parks Service, local governments and our state aquariums monitor hatchlings and help rehabilitate any sea turtles that fall victim to attacks from predators or man-made hazards such as boat propellers, trash or fishing nets.
Also, North Carolina’s three state aquariums, which are part of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, have put in place several programs to help injured juvenile and mature sea turtles when it’s apparent they will be unable to survive on their own.
The North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island is home to the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation, or STAR, Center. The STAR Center, which opened on June 27, 2014, gives visitors the unique opportunity to learn about the importance of sea turtles to North Carolina’s marine ecosystems. Today, the STAR Center has four loggerheads, two green sea turtles and one Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle in the rehabilitation facility. Aquarium visitors can learn how to help prevent any man-made injuries from happening to sea turtles in the future.
Additional protection of sea turtle species has helped increase nesting sites along the coast. The National Parks Service is reporting 269 nests within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, 15 more than the record set two years ago, and more than 1,000 for the entire North Carolina Coast.
Thanks to the efforts of all these state, local and federal agencies, sea turtles are being given a better chance to survive.
Officials say that’s good news for sea turtles and the economy of the Outer Banks. The North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island has seen an 18 percent increase in tourist spending and a 19 percent increase in visitors between 2013 and 2014, thanks in part to the STAR Center’s popularity. Equally impressive is the fact all four Outer Banks counties saw visitor spending increase by an average of 5.3 percent in 2014, according to data released earlier this month by North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and state Commerce Secretary John Skvarla. 
It is clear that while this important conservation work protects sea turtles and our valuable ecosystems, it also enhances the quality of life for North Carolina’s citizens and visitors.

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