West Marine to join Great Turtle Race


West Marine, the well known retailer of boating supplies and accessories, will participate in something called The Great Turtle Race. This is being called an “international sea turtle conservation event” uniting corporate sponsors together with conservation organizations. The race is slated to occur between April 16 and April 29. The event is being described as a global bid to raise awareness and funds for the critically endangered leatherback turtle.

From the West Marine press release:

West Marine is one of 10 corporations and institutions competing in The Great Turtle Race, including Dreyer’s Ice Cream, GITI Tires, Plantronics, Travelocity and Yahoo!, which is hosting The Great Turtle Race online at www.GreatTurtleRace.com. Non-corporate sponsors include Bullis Charter School in Los Altos, CA; Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA; Life Sciences Secondary School in New York, NY (through the financial sponsorship of Microsoft); and Offield Center for Billfish Studies. An eleventh “celebrity” turtle will be announced during the week of April 9. The Great Turtle Race is organized by Conservation International, the Costa Rica Ministry of Environment and Energy, The Leatherback Trust and the Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) program.

The sponsored turtles have been equipped with satellite tags and are “racing” toward feeding areas south of the Galapagos Islands after nesting at Playa Grande in Costa Rica’s Las Baulas National Park, the primary nesting area for leatherbacks in the Pacific. The leatherback is a 100 million-year-old, massive sea animal that outlived the dinosaurs but is now dangerously close to extinction. Leatherback numbers have decreased at Playa Grande from thousands of nesting turtles 10 years ago to fewer than 100 in the last five years. This online event will raise funds to protect Playa Grande and raise awareness about what individuals can do&mdashno matter where they live&mdashto help protect sea turtles in our daily actions.

Since 1994, West Marine has donated nearly 4 million dollars to non-profit organizations. Randy Repass, Founder and Chairman of West Marine noted “As boaters, we naturally have a vested interest in maintaining our waterways and ensuring that they remain pristine and ecologically viable for future generations. West Marine is proud to be working with like-minded organizations across the country to turn the tide from exploitation to preservation of our fragile saltwater and freshwater ecosystems.”

James Spotila, president of The Leatherback Trust, said, “It’s time for people to rally around these ancient creatures and to understand that the actions we take&mdashas individuals, as governments, as business people&mdashcan have either a negative or positive effect on the ocean.” Poaching of eggs, bycatch in gillnets and longline fishing, destruction of sea turtle nesting beaches and ocean pollution threaten leatherbacks with extinction.

“One of the wonderful things about this event is that it allows us to engage the public in conservation with upbeat messages,” said Roderic Mast, vice president of Conservation International and co-chair of the IUCN&mdashWorld Conservation Union’s Marine Turtle Specialist Group. “When we eradicate threats to leatherback turtles, we also eradicate threats to countless other species of marine wildlife.”

Fans have a chance to choose a favorite turtle at www.GreatTurtleRace.com to cheer throughout the race. Viewers can follow West Marine’s Leatherback Sea Turtle Windy, learn about the obstacles she will face along the way&mdash including fishing lines, nets, and trawls; plastic bags (often mistaken for jellyfish, the leatherback’s primary food source) and other marine debris; and many other human-created hazards.

“It’s fascinating to consider that we are able to bring together these prehistoric animals with such cutting-edge science. With every move the turtles make, the satellite tags collect information that would be extremely difficult and prohibitively expensive for humans to gather,” said Stanford University researcher George Shillinger of TOPP. “The data provides a nearly real-time ‘turtle’s-eye view’ of animal behavior in relation to environmental change.”

As the leatherbacks surface to breathe every several minutes, the satellite tags transmit data such as geolocation, water temperature and water depth to satellites in space, which then transmit the data back down to computer servers in the U.S. in nearly real time. That data is then combined with remotely-sensed data about sea surface temperature, sea surface height, bathymetry and more to build a more comprehensive understanding of the ocean with each dataset.

This information will enable scientists and managers to development innovative conservation measures and adaptive management strategies that consider oceanography, animal behavior and human pressures and work to conserve sea turtles and other migratory species.

By Ocean Navigator