Federal biologists are releasing thousands of endangered Kemp's ridley baby sea turtles into the western Gulf of Mexico, betting that by the time the silver dollar-sized swimmers make it to the oil-fouled waters of the eastern Gulf, BP will have cleaned up its goopy mess. Texas has not been significantly impacted by the oil spill, and the risks of holding turtles in captivity at a critical stage could be worse than the dangers of oil more than 400 miles away, the plan's supporters say.
Early efforts aimed at recovering the species taught scientists that prolonged captivity can mess with the turtles' navigation and foraging skills, putting long-term survival in danger. But critics argue the decision to free vulnerable hatchlings doesn't adequately account for hurricanes, storms or a seasonal change in current, all of which could bring the oil west and directly into their path. "Don't just send them out to the Gulf to die cause they're going to get oiled eventually," says one.