VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. , –
The Navy has partnered with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge at Joint Expeditionary Base (JEB) Little Creek-Fort Story with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) perform patrols for sea turtle activity and marine mammal strandings.
Since 1993, the agreements were executed between the Army and the USFWS but now that the two military installations have joined as one base, the Navy will continue previously established turtle patrols and expand the MOU to include patrolling for sea mammal and turtle strandings. This program is part of Naval Facilities Engineering Command Mid-Atlantic's environmental efforts in their area of responsibility that stretches from North Carolina to Maine.
"The Navy has the challenging duty of balancing the military mission with natural resource conservation," said Sara Bell, Natural Resources specialist, in the Public Works Department JEB Little Creek-Fort Story. "With the expansion of the original MOU to include the reporting of stranded marine mammals, the Navy helps contribute to its responsibility to uphold the Marine Mammal Protection Act."
Under the MOU, USFWS representatives will conduct non-intrusive patrols along a portion of beach front property between JEB Fort Story Gate 8 and the Cape Henry Lighthouse each morning from June 1 to Aug. 31 annually. In the event that early sea turtle nesting is identified in Virginia or North Carolina, however, the patrolling may start as early as May 15.
If a nest is present, USFWS will relocate eggs to their identified nursery and provide adequate protection. Once hatched, USFWS will transfer four hatchlings of the first nest to the Virginia Aquarium for studies on growth and development. The remaining hatchlings will be released directly into the Gulf Stream. USFWS will move all of the other hatchlings to the beach, where they will be allowed to crawl into the ocean unaided.
In the event that a sea turtle or marine mammal is found stranded, USFWS will report the finding to the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Team, the Regional Stranding Coordinator and Base Natural Resources. If evidence of a crawl or nesting activity has been identified, Base Natural Resources will be contacted immediately.