The Cal Academy of Science was packed on Thursday night with an estimated 2,400 people who came to celebrate sea turtles on World Sea Turtle Day. They came to enjoy demonstrations, interactive exhibits and an amazing show using the Planetarium’s dome showing how these gentle and endangered creatures migrate thousands of miles across the vast ocean as they travel from their nesting beaches to faraway foraging grounds. The evening won’t soon be forgotten, it was pure blue magic.
Staff & volunteers from The Sea Turtle Restoration Project, Spawn, and Got Mercury.org, along with supporters from Sea Stewards and The Center for Biological Diversity transformed African Hall into a teaching hospital about everything from ‘what does a turtle egg look like’ to international threats such as commercial fisheries, poaching and big oil interests. On the central piazza stage was a model of a TED (Turtle Extruder Device) required by Federal Law to be installed on commercial shrimping boats to give sea turtles an escape hatch from their nets to avoid drowning. It was clear that many were surprised to learn about the consequences to marine life caused by their appetite for seafood, especially shrimp.
Scott Benson from NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center’s leatherback turtle program took us on a grand tour across the Pacific using the biggest computer monitor at the Cal Academy of Science – the planetarium’s dome itself – to demonstrate the incomprehensibly large distances covered by these turtles as they migrate from Indonesia & Papua New Guinea to Northern California, Oregon & Washington in search of their favorite eats, the Brown Sea Nettle. Little did the audience know that just 20 minutes before the show, there had been a malfunction in the dome. No problema, the CAS geniuses crossed a few wires and fixed it in plenty of time for the World Turtle Day Presentation.
Sadly this year has been a tough one for sea turtles. Between the Deepwater Horizon Disaster and an international community that still doesn’t ‘get it’ about how many ways we compromise wildlife, it’s been hard for endangered turtles to rebound. All we can hope is that by continuing to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves and educating the public, life will get better for our sea turtle friends in years to come.