Two Hatteras islanders have gotten together to write a blueprint for the National Park Service?s sea turtle management on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
It?s entitled ?Sea Turtle Management ? A Common Sense Approach for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area.? The 51-page document was submitted by the Outer Banks Preservation Association as part of its comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for managing off-road vehicles on the seashore.
This is an impressive document. It is indeed a ?common-sense? approach to nesting turtles, and it is well research and documented.
I recommend that you read it. It?s not nearly as tedious as the sea turtle sections in the DEIS and certainly seems to me to make more sense than the recommendations in the DEIS ? and the current sea turtle management practices on the seashore. The common sense approach put forward in the document is that Cape Hatteras needs to change its management practice to include relocating more of the turtle nests on the seashore.
The two authors are both retired ? from very different jobs. But they are both avid fishermen and conservationists who love the seashore.
Larry Hardham, who took the lead on putting together the research, is 69 and a retired business consultant for physicians and dentists. He retired in 1995 and relocated from Virginia Beach to Hatteras Island.
Hardham and his wife, Dee, live in Buxton. He is president of the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club, a member of the board of directors of the Outer Banks Preservation Association, and represented the Anglers Club at the Park Service?s failed attempt at negotiated rulemaking to write the ORV plan.
Bob Davis is 80 years old and retired from his job as a chemist in the research lab of a glass company in New Jersey in 1994 to move to Buxton. He, too, is a member of the Anglers Club and OBPA, and was Hardham?s alternate on the negotiated rulemaking committee.
Davis and Hardham met at the Anglers Club.
Hardham had become interested in sea turtles before he retired during a visit to Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge when he came down for a long weekend and had a conversation with the biologist who ran the refuge?s sea turtle program. When he finally moved here in 1996, he and his wife volunteered at Pea Island.
Along the way, Hardham became interested in how differently Pea Island and Cape Hatteras National Seashore manage sea turtle nesting.
He got Davis, with his science background, interested, and in 2007, the two men ran the first sand-temperature studies on Hatteras Island. (Sand temperature can affect the sex of turtle hatchings. The goal is to hatch more females.)
They went on from there to produce their written report with Hardham doing research and graphics and Davis taking the lead on the writing.
The bottom line, the report states, is that ?CHNS seemingly has the most protective sea turtle policy resulting in the most restrictive public access and the poorest results in their breeding area.?
The policy at the seashore is ?natural? nesting with little or no manipulation by humans.
?It is well and good to have loggerhead sea turtles recover without manipulation by man except that at CHNS man has changed the coastal environment (by man-made dunes) and such an approach does not work as evidenced by the historically poor results.?
The report says these poor results means that the seashore loses 43.5 percent of nests, largely from weather and predation.
Other southeastern states, including South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida have less restrictive management with much better nesting success.
In fact, in some place in Florida, you can walk on the nests, sit on them, even stick your umbrella in the sand over them ? though the umbrella part comes with a warning not to shove it too deep.
You can read more about how Florida handles sea turtle nesting and see a slide show of photos provided by Hardham in a blog I wrote last July, entitled ?Protecting sea turtle nests, Florida style.?
?CHNSRA should take the best ideas from our neighbors and apply those which offer the most effective opportunities for successful recover,? the report states.
?Natural nesting in CHNSRA has failed as a management policy and should be terminated.?
Furthermore, Hardham and Davis state that many of the restrictive closures and the ban on night driving are not needed or justified at the seashore.
The data to prove this come from what Hardham calls the best possible source ? the seashore?s own sea turtle resource management reports on nesting success.
The entire report is worth reading. It?s totally interesting, easy to read, and ? well — a common sense approach.
If you want the short version, you can read Larry Hardham?s guest column — a response to the environmental groups that continue to claim that record sea turtle nesting in 2008 and 2009 was due to the restrictions of the consent decree ? even though they are not and the groups ought to be able to figure that out. It?s on the Beach Access and Commentary pages.
Click here to read the full report: ?Sea Turtle Management ? A Common Sense Approach for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area.?