Surfer’s turtle riding photo raises more controversy than awareness

Posted: 11/07/2011 in all marine news

San Francisco Chronicle – 

North Shore pro surfer Jamie O’Brien is apparently very concerned about the spread of fibropapillomatosis among sea turtles, but since the online posting last week of the photo at right, in which he seems to be riding one of the creatures, he’s also been riding a wave of controversy.

Not only may O’Brien have violated state and federal laws against harassing sea turtles, he violated the sensibilities of those who consider the Hawaiian honu to be an ‘aumakua (a kind of ancestral guardian spirit) — if not their family’s ‘aumakua — and countless more concerned by the likelihood of clueless visitors imitating his stunt. In Hawai’i, the honu population is considered “threatened,” i.e. in somewhat better shape than “endangered,” with global warming and the disfiguring disease remaining as two key threats.

After the photo appeared on the Hawaii News Now Facebook page, unleashing a torrent of online criticism, O’Brien wrote on his Tumbr blog: If you are here with rage, read below.

And help build the storm. … Fibropapillomatosis of sea turtles is probably caused by a herpes-type virus, and is causing an epidemic amongst sea turtles.

Sea turtle fibropapillomatosis (FP) was first discovered in 1938. FP is a disease marked by proliferation of benign but debilitating cutaneous fibropapillomas and occasional visceral alien.

While much research has been and continues to be done to find the causes and remedies for FP, there is a new and alarming development.

Fibropapilloma tumors are starting to show up on other sea turtle species in increasing numbers !

If the same pattern of infection occurs as was seen with green turtles, it will not be long before FP outstrips even homo sapiens as the single greatest threat to marine turtles.

Full story…


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