Deal near to save turtles from Gulf oil burnings

Fri Jul 2, 2010 6:25am GMT

Controlled burns have been halted for the past few days due to rough weather conditions.

Among the creatures most at risk from the incineration of oil at sea are the endangered Kemp's ridley turtle, the smallest known sea turtles in the world and among the rarest.

Private boat captains chartered for wildlife rescue missions in the Gulf said in affidavits filed with the lawsuit that young sea turtles tend to congregate among oil blobs floating in the water, apparently unable to distinguish between the oil and mats of seaweed that provide natural shelter on the surface of the Gulf.

The turtles are then presumably swept up and unable to escape when shrimp boats contracted for cleanup operations are used to drag fire-resistant booms to encircle the floating oil before it is set ablaze.

The government says at least 275 controlled burns have been conducted in the Gulf since the spill, removing some 10 million gallons (37.8 million liters) of oil from the open water.

BP said in documents responding to the lawsuit that "relief that plaintiffs are seeking ... is largely already being undertaken" by BP and government's oil spill command.

Joining the Turtle Island Restoration Network as plaintiffs in the case, 2:10-cv-01866-KDE-DEK, are the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Animal Welfare Institute and the Center for Biological Diversity. (Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; editing by Doina Chiacu)

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