Mass Audubon, NE Aquarium Share EPA/New England Merit Award
Michael P. O'Connor
LINCOLN, MA.—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency/New England Region has honored Mass Audubon and the New England Aquarium with an Environmental Merit Award for their partnership to rescue, rehabilitate, and release endangered sea turtles.
The Merit Awards have presented annually to individuals, conservation organizations, community groups, academia, government agencies, and businesses that through specific initiatives exemplify environmental stewardship.
For more than a quarter-century, Mass Audubon and the Aquarium have collaborated on saving vulnerable Kemp’s ridley, green, and loggerhead turtles that get caught in the “hook” of Cape Cod Bay each fall as they return to southern wintering waters. As New England temperatures drop, the turtles wash up, cold-stunned and helpless, on bay beaches—where volunteers and staff from Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary are watching and waiting.
The animals are hurried from the beach to the wildlife sanctuary for a check of vital signs, then driven to the Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy where veterinarians and other experts begin the process of restoring the turtles to health. When deemed sufficiently healthy, the turtles are driven or flown to beaches along southern states and the Gulf of Mexico and released.
The May 10 EPA Merit Award ceremony in Boston’s Faneuil Hall drew hundreds of attendees from environmental agencies and nonprofits organizations, including Wellfleet Bay supporters such as Bruce Beane, a volunteer driver. “They were looking for a van, and I guess I just had one that was big enough,” chuckled Beane. “You know, we’re responsible for a lot of conditions these sea turtles are facing, so anything we can do to help mitigate their situation is fine with me.”
Marine Biologist Carol “Krill” Carson, founder of the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance who sent the EPA a letter of support for the project, said “there’s really not that many people who are willing to be out there in uncomfortable conditions, day, and night, with such passion and dedication and love for these animals.”
Carson’s letter was just one a number of testimonials, including from U.S. Cong. William Keating and state Rep. Sarah Peake, who legislative districts include the Cape, and from the Massachusetts Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program.
“We are honored to receive an Environmental Merit Award from the New England EPA in recognition of our partnership with the Aquarium to save endangered sea turtles,” Mass Audubon President Gary Clayton said. “In rescuing these vulnerable turtles, which literally are on the verge of death when plucked from the surf, we reinforce our commitment to protecting all the wildlife of the Commonwealth, including its coastal waters, for the benefit of people today as well as future generations.
“Indeed, without the more than 200 dedicated individuals who monitor miles of beach while enduring icy water and fierce winds, this important project would simply not be possible,” Clayton noted.
Mass Audubon is the largest nature-based conservation organization in New England. Founded in 1896 by two women who fought for the protection of birds, Mass Audubon carries on their legacy by focusing on the greatest challenges facing the environment today: the loss of biodiversity, inequitable access to nature, and climate change. With the help of our 140,000 members and supporters, we protect wildlife, conserve and restore resilient land, advocate for impactful environmental policies, offer nationally recognized education programs for adults and children, and provide endless opportunities to experience the outdoors at our wildlife sanctuaries. Explore, find inspiration, and take action at www.massaudubon.org.