EarthTalk: What is the status of Sea Turtle
protection efforts? Don’t many of them die in fishnets
and, as a result, are threatened with extinction?
-- Matthew Lieberman, Wellesley, MA
their tenuous existence, sea turtles are considered by many
environmentalists as ambassadors for the world’s troubled
oceans. They have graced the seas for more than 200 million
years and survived whatever catastrophe befell the dinosaurs.
But they are now facing a sharp decline in numbers around
the world due mainly to human threats such as the alteration
of beach nesting habitat, the harvesting of eggs for food,
entanglement in fishing nets and pollution of ocean waters.
in all the warm ocean waters of the Earth, sea turtles generally
remain at sea, returning to the surface for air and only
coming ashore to lay eggs and nest. The five species of
sea turtles found in and around North America are the leatherback,
green turtle, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley and loggerhead.
turtles are protected in and around U.S. waters under the
Endangered Species Act (ESA), which lists the hawksbill,
leatherback, Kemp’s ridley and green turtle as “endangered,”
while the loggerhead is listed as “threatened.”
(A species is considered endangered when it is on the brink
of extinction; if it is experiencing serious threats that
may eventually lead to its extinction, but the situation
is not yet critical, it is classified as threatened.) Harming,
harassing, killing, importing, selling or transporting any
sea turtle, hatchling or eggs is considered a violation
of federal law punishable by a stiff fine and jail time.
the U.S., many other countries have similar laws designed
to protect the world’s remaining and beloved sea turtles.
And the Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species (CITES), an international agreement signed by 169
countries and designed to prevent the trade in endangered
wild animals and their parts, also protects sea turtles.
But such measures often look much better on paper; enforcement
efforts are often inadequate and as a result sea turtle
populations continue to plummet.
to the Florida-based Caribbean Conservation Corporation
(also known as the Sea Turtle Survival League), present
goals for protecting sea turtles include: cracking down
on the illegal international trade in turtles and turtle
products; forcing fishing boats to use “turtle excluder
devices” in their nets to decrease turtle deaths;
establishing more coastal refuges to keep development from
encroaching on turtle nesting beaches; decreasing artificial
light near nesting beaches (light scares turtles away);
enforcing laws to minimize the dumping of pollutants and
solid waste into the ocean and near-shore waters; and stepping
up turtle monitoring activities so conservation efforts
can stay focused where they are most needed.
can do their part by steering clear of sea turtles when
they are laying eggs on beaches, making sure to never remove
or handle a turtle egg in any way, and keeping house lights
(and even flashlights and camera flashes) off at night on
or near nesting beaches. Concerned persons can also help
by joining and supporting organizations working to protect
sea turtles, such as the Caribbean Conservation Corporation,
the Sea Turtle Restoration Project and the National Save
the Sea Turtle Foundation.
Conservation/Sea Turtles and Threats to Their Survival,”;
Turtle Restoration Project; National
Save the Sea Turtle Foundation.
EarthTalk: How much pollution do motorcycles
generate? Are there efforts to make them more eco-friendly?
-- Matt Lackore, Rochester, MN
get about double the gas mileage of even the most fuel-efficient
cars—but that doesn’t mean they are green. Despite
getting 60-70 miles per gallon, motorcycles are not subject
to the same rigorous emissions standards as cars and light
duty trucks, even though they spew up to 15 times more pollution
per mile, mostly in the form of smog-causing hydrocarbons
and nitrogen oxides.
stringent regulations in Europe and the U.S. have forced
automakers to make their engines cleaner, but motorcycle
manufacturers have not been held to such high standards
and have therefore been slow to implement similar advances.
According to the European Commission, motorcycles—despite
only accounting for about three percent of total traffic
volume in Europe—are expected to generate as much
as 14 percent of that continent’s total hydrocarbon
emissions by 2010.
But there is
light at the end of the tunnel, thanks in large part to
the state of California, which in 2004 passed legislation
to green up motorcycles sold and ridden in that state. California’s
new standards dictate that hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide
emissions from motorcycles top out at only 0.8 grams per
kilometer (g/km), down from 1975-set standards of between
5.0 and 14.0 g/km (depending on engine size).
And in 2005,
the United Nations’ World Forum for Harmonization
of Vehicle Regulations, which works internationally to set
vehicle emissions standards, issued a new set of motorcycle
emissions testing guidelines that will make it easier for
manufacturers to design more green-friendly motorcycles.
In the wake of
these developments, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) established new federal rules that require motorcycle
makers to reduce their products’ emissions by 50 percent.
In place since the beginning of the 2006 model year, these
new rules are expected to cut combined hydrocarbon and nitrogen
oxide emissions from motorcycles by about 54,000 tons a
year, while also saving approximately 12 million gallons
of fuel annually by preventing it from escaping from fuel
hoses and fuel tanks.
are rising to the challenge. Honda, already a world leader
in the development of greener cars, is putting the finishing
touches on its new “idling stop system” that
cuts fuel consumption and exhaust emissions by turning off
the engine instead of idling at stop lights and in traffic
jams. And Intelligent Energy, a British company, is developing
an Emissions Neutral Vehicle (ENV), a motorcycle powered
by a detachable hydrogen-powered fuel cell. The vehicle
can reach speeds topping 50 miles per hour while making
virtually no noise, and can run for up to four hours without
refueling. Bigger, faster and longer running versions of
the ENV are currently in the works, and should become widely
available in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere within a few
“New Standards for On-Road Motorcycles,”;
Motorcycle Emissions Info; Honda