Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Endangered Turtles Discovered in Black Market Scandal

The issue of environmental crime can take place anywhere at anytime. Luckily, there are people out there who help stop such crimes from happening and reverse any potential damage that may have been caused. Or, to keep the issue from getting any worse, they are actively involved in preventative measures as well as educational outreach for the general public. One agency in particular recently got involved in a smuggling event regarding an airport in the Philippines that led them to discover suitcases filled with live exotic animals.

Photo from\
The officers of the Bureau of Customs in the Philippines recovered a number of suitcases that were hastily abandoned at Manila's Ninoy Aquino Airport. These suitcases, which had been smuggled onto a flight from Hong Kong, held more than 1,500 live turtles. Of the many turtles found, three of the species, the star tortoise, red-foot tortoise and African spurred tortoise, are listed by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as vulnerable. The fourth species, red-eared slider turtle, is a common household pet sold around the world. 

Photo from\

When added together, the turtles were worth approximately $87,000 US dollars (4.5 million Philippine pesos), which led the Bureau to believe they were most likely trying to be sold.  Although the black market is highly illegal, it is unfortunately just as profitable. Due to this, both the Hong Kong and Philippine governments have hefty fines and lengthy jail sentences for those found with any endangered species. These repercussions are used to intercept but also deter people from engaging in such crimes. 

If you would like to read more about this incident and the issue of the black market on wildlife related to Hong Kong and other areas across the world, here are some links!

More information about environmental crimes, as well as laws and policies in place to help the issue, will be coming in future blogs!

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Seascape Window Fundraiser at Blue Anchor Studio, Middleboro on March 1, 2019.

NECWA held their Seascape Window Fundraiser last night at the Blue Anchor Studio in Middleboro. Owner and artist Robyn Iarrobino lead the group through a fun and creative process.

I think you will agree that the results were amazing! So many unique and beautiful creations came out through the process of making these Seascape designs. 

Thank you everyone for coming last night and supporting the work that NECWA does. The money raised from this event will be used to purchase new field equipment for our Southcoast Terrapin Project. 

Click on this link to see more photos from this fun evening.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Sharks of New England Presentation and the Raynham Public Library

Last Friday, Krill and two NECWA interns, Hayley from Bridgewater State University and Kari from Massachusetts Maritime Academy, were invited to Raynham’s Public Library to participate in “Shark Week” events. The program took place during February school vacation, which was well attended by families, including kindergarten and elementary school aged kids, interested in the talk!

Couple of shark lovers!
To start off the program, Krill gave a lively presentation about various sharks found along our New England coasts, including great whites, thresher sharks, blue sharks, mako sharks, dusky sharks, and sand sharks. Next, Krill explained NECWA’s community sighting network for basking sharks and ocean sunfish ( explaining their anatomy, what they eat and how they function in the water, as well as their interesting social behaviors. Using a shark stuffed animal, the kids were actively involved in learning the different body parts of the shark, including the dorsal fins, eyes, jaw, tiny teeth, as well as their ears and nose. 

Kari helps the kids make their own shark keychains.
The fun didn’t stop there of course as both interns came prepared with fun activities for the kids to do after the presentation. With Hayley’s help, each child was given the opportunity to make their very own fossilized shark tooth necklace by picking any beads they would like, as well as putting them in fun and unique patterns. Kari assisted the kids in making key-chains by stringing various colored glass-beads in a particular fashion to eventually form the shape of a shark! 

Some of the necklaces the kids made.
The talk didn’t only leave the kids with new information about basking sharks, as NECWA’s goals consist of more than just educating the public. The mission continues further to also let people know, regardless of their age, that there are things they can do to be actively involved in helping our environment, as well as the animals that live in them. Each child eagerly raised their hands when asked if they recycled, so it is a start! The kids and their parents and/or guardians also took various sighting tags for NECWA NEBShark and Southcoast Terrapin, Mass Audubon Sea Turtle sighting network, as well as IFAW’s marine mammal rescue and stranding network, so that each individual had someone to contact in the event of a sighting. 

More awesome shark keychains.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Sea Turtle Necropsies down at WHOI

Hayley Pollard collecting data. 

This past Saturday,  January 12th, marked the first day of sea turtle necropsies that will be conducted throughout the spring down at the Necropsy Facility that is part of the Marine Mammal Center, WHOI. The carcasses that were examine had been collected from Cape Cod beaches this fall and early winter. During each necropsy, a variety of research activities is conducted in order to learn more about the cold-stunned sea turtles that had become trapped inside Cape Cod Bay this fall but were not able to navigate their way out. 
Volunteers from many different government and non-government organizations in New England helped to gather data, tissue samples and other information on the 3 species of endangered sea turtles that were examined. The 3 species included the Atlantic Kemp's ridley sea turtle, the green turtle and the loggerhead sea turtle. Each spring, this work is lead by Bob Prescott, Director of Mass Audubon at Wellfleet Bay, in collaboration with NECWA and researchers from other local government and non-government organizations. 

Teams of 3 people examine and collect data on each sea turtle carcass they necropsy. A necropsy is the term used to describe an autopsy that is conducted on an animal. The different organizations participating in these events are often conducting various research activities in the hopes of learning more about these beautiful and amazing animals. 
Necropsy Facility at WHOI

Information gathered includes the turtles overall health which can be determined by the amount of body fat observed close to the heart, stomach and around the inner edges of the shell. Internal examinations also allow researchers to determine the sex of the turtle by finding the gonads. Unfortunately, there still is no tried and true way of sexing juvenile sea turtle just by looking at their external morphology. However, external features of the animal are still gathered to see if a body feature, like length of the animal's tail, might give a clue to the animal's gender. Blood is also being collected and analyzed to see if a simple DNA test can be used to tell the girls from the boys.
NECWA is leading a multi-year study on the internal parasites found in the carcasses that are examined every week. This study is in collaboration with Mass Audubon as well as Apryle Panyi, a PhD student at the University of Southern Mississippi. Other research activities include the collection of muscle and liver tissue for isotope studies that examine varying chemical elements to provide clues about their overall health and diet. 
At the end of each necropsy, the team collects, bag and labels both hind flippers which will be used to train new NOAA Observers who may have to tag a live sea turtle if one is caught in fishing gear offshore.  
Loggerhead Sea Turtle Carcass
Over the course of the day, researchers were able to necropsy close to 35 turtles and they will be returning next week to continue this work. Although it breaks our heart to have to necropsy sea turtles that did not survive, the research conducted will hopefully help us better understand and protect those sea turtles that made it out of Cape Cod Bay and headed south to warmer waters for the winter. 
Written by Krill Carson and Criminal Justice Intern Hayley Pollard

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Straw Revolution

Want to know a great thing about human beings?

I believe it is fair to say, that most people who see another person or animal suffering feel inclined not only to sympathy, but also to action. There was a video recently which went viral because it tugged at the heartstrings. This video was of a sea turtle with a foreign object lodged in its nose. This object turned out to be a 4 inch plastic straw. A team of scientists found this sea turtle while doing research in the field and removed the plastic from the animal’s nose. Plastic, although sometimes useful, can be detrimental to marine wildlife, and the environment as a whole.

Photo taken from National Geographic
Plastic, although a seemingly affordable resource in manufacturing, has many long-term and detrimental consequences. Plastic does not ever fully go away. Even when being made smaller through bio or photo-degradation, there are many factors that affect and inhibit upon these natural and chemical processes. As the disintegration of degradable plastic occurs, what’s left: micro plastics and nurdles, still pose a threat to wildlife. 

Plastic releases toxins and carcinogens into the environment, and is often times mistaken as food for hungry sea turtles, whales, sharks, birds etc. This is not ideal because not only can they choke on this material, but when they consume plastic, their bodies do not obtain the nutrients necessary for survival. 

I have begun to do something, and I encourage you all to join me! Choose an alternative to plastic straws. There are so many options! Here’s what I came up with:

Bambooorganics. Natural Bamboo Straws.
Bamboo Straws: These last a while, however, they do disintegrate after many uses. They can be hand washed. The benefit of bamboo is that the it grows very quickly and plentifully and can thus keep up with high demand.

Glass Straws: A great, long lasting alternative to plastic.  Glass in and of itself is relatively fragile, it CAN break. However, in my experience, several of the ones that I’ve used have been thicker than expected and sturdy. These straws are not designed to bend so in travel,  it will need to be carried in a way that takes its length into consideration.  

Metal Straws from Fin Pins

Metal Straws: They can come collapsible, making them mobile and convenient. Silicone tips can also be purchased with the metal straw to minimize chipping tooth discomfort when drinking. Again, these straws typically come with a brush for cleaning purposes. And many provide a bag for convenience when traveling. The metal straws we purchased were from Fin Pins and meaningfully say "Protect our Oceans."

Paper Straws: These are a great one time use alternative. They are perfect for parties or functions, and will not damage teeth for all my straw chewers out there. The downfall of the paper straw however, is that they disintegrate, sometimes, before the drink has been consumed.

Stainless Steel Straws
Stainless Steel Straws: Stainless steel is a metal, and therefore a conductor of heat. This makes the possibility of burning oneself when using this type of straw to drink a hot drink a possibility. Stainless steel also has temperature absorption qualities so if the drink is cold, the straw may be cold, if the drink is hot, the straw will be as well. It is important to keep this in mind. With this being said, this straw is another one of my personal preferences.

The benefit of being alive in this time of history is that we each have access to knowledge and a way to network with others for any cause that matters to us. Here at NECWA, it is our marine wildlife that we focus on and work hard to protect. We need them, and they need us. And I need you!

Jasmine trying out a glass straw.
I have provided links to small and local businesses who can not only supply these products, but also have a mission of charity. Let’s support each other!

NO action is too small.

-Jasmine Figueroa
New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance
Intern/ Volunteer

“With Knowledge come empathy, with empathy comes change, and with change comes peace; For all beings alive and conscious in their own way”

Non-Profit/Small Business
IG: @finpinshop
IG: @simplystraws


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Team Mola

Researcher Aimee Carlson presenting on recent ocean sunfish tagging activities.
What does it mean to be a member of Team Mola? On a small scale, it means working with friends and neighbors on a community-based project focused on the heaviest bony fish in the world - the Ocean Sunfish. The mission of this team is to better understand and protect Ocean Sunfish, or Mola mola, that live and feed off the shores of New England. 
Fisheries Biologist Aimee Carlson
On Saturday, September 20th, the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance (NECWA) in collaboration with Coonamessett Farm Foundation and Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary hosted their first Team Mola training session at the Mass Audubon sanctuary in Wellfleet, MA. The goal of Team Mola is to build a network of volunteers that can assist NECWA with rescues and necropsies of ocean sunfish strandings. These strandings are annual event that occur each fall and early winter, typically along the shores of Cape Cod. 
Marine artifact materials on display
Team Mola members work together to gather as much information about Ocean Sunfish as possible. Working with NECWA staff and interns, Team Mola members assist with rescues of live ocean sunfish as well as necropsies (animal autopsies) of carcasses that wash ashore. The efforts of Team Mola help NECWA more efficiently, safely and effectively respond to ocean sunfish strandings. Team Mola members also provide additional coverage with more recent projects, such as NECWA's tagging and tracking activities. Fisheries biologist Aimee Carlson from Coonamessett Farm Foundation in Falmouth provided an update on her teams recent tagging efforts using both satellite tags and mark & recapture tags. 

Powerpoint Presentations
Since 2005, NECWA has sponsored a community-sighting network called the New England Basking Shark and Ocean Sunfish Project at This network asks the general public to report their sightings of live and dead basking sharks and ocean sunfish the they see from a boat or from the beach. What NECWA was not expecting were the annual calls each fall and early winter concerning stranded ocean sunfish. Now NECWA is prepared and is working hard to address this issue.
Team Mola field kits to support the work these volunteers are doing.
When reporting a sighting, make sure to record the date, time and position of the animal and take lots of pictures. This information is important for it builds on what we know about these coastal pelagic giants who are some of the most unusual looking fish in New England. There are many good and free app for cell phones that provide a latitude and longitude. Take a screenshot of that screen and you will have both the time and the location of whatever you are trying to document. 
Hal Levine teaching participants how to weigh an ocean sunfish
Team Mola is also about connecting the New England community with the unique marine animals that live in our coastal backyard. It provides unity and collaboration by asking the community to come together to help an animal in need.
Showing correct measuring techniques on a cardboard ocean sunfish.

If you would like to learn more about Team Mola, contact NECWA at Anyone can get involved so give us a shout and let's see how we can include you in this exciting and innovative group. 
To learn more about NECWA and its goals, visit our website at
Showing how to collect measurements using a cardboard ocean sunfish
If you would like to learn more about the amazing Ocean Sunfish, check out these websites:
Blog posting written by Krill Carson and Haley Pollard (NECWA Intern)

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Ocean Exploration Cruise - 7 am to 1 pm Sunday, September 30, 2018

Ocean Exploration Cruise - NECWA Fall Fundraiser

Sunday, September 30, 2018

7 am to 1 pm

Privateer IV, 7 Seas Whale Watch

Marine Forecast Links:

  • National Weather Service Stellwagen Bank - click HERE
  • Offshore Buoy Data - Boston - click HERE

UPDATE - SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29TH - for those who have registered for this trip.
  • NECWA News Blog Updates. Check the NECWA News blog for any changes or updates to our trip.  Right now, seas are looking a bit rough offshore so take your motion sickness pills in advance. Eat a light breakfast and stay away from greasy foods. We will have Saltines and Ginger Ale onboard if you need it. 
  • Guest Naturalists for tomorrow. We are very excited about this Ocean Exploration Cruise as we will have amazing guest naturalists onboard the boat and on the microphone. Guest naturalists will include Wayne Petersen, Jim Sweeney, Thomas Robben and Adrian Jordaan. 
  • Captain Jay onboard. Tomorrow our captain will be Capt. Jay Frontierro who is an amazing naturalist/biologist, captain and birder. So we are in good hands and will relay on his advice as to where the best places will be to head offshore to view whales and seabirds and other marine wildlife. 
  • NECWA naturalists onboard and on the microphone will include Krill Carson, Courtney Callahan, Tammy Silva, Leah Horeanopoulos and Dani Marston. We will also have a number of NECWA interns onboard so make sure to chat with them about the work that they did this summer or are currently involved with.  
  • Dress for the weather. Best to dress in layers and expect it to be 10 - to 15 degrees cooler offshore than on land. Your are welcome to bring anything you would like onboard, but please keep your gear to a minimum so there will be plenty of room for everyone inside the cabin. 
  • Bring food and don't  forget about the galley. You can bring food and drinks onboard, but no alcohol. You can purchase food and alcoholic and non-alcoholic refreshments from the galley so bring extra cash. 
  • Check in time is 6:30 am - 7:00 am. Be down at the 7 Seas dock by 6:30 am ready to  board. We hope to start boarding by 6:30 am tomorrow morning. We will leave the dock at 7 am sharp so please don't be late. If you need to contact me, use my cell at 508-369-8303. 
  • Free Nature Raffle. As we move through the harbor on our way offshore, we will conduct our Free Nature Raffle. If you would like to donate a new or gently used item to the raffle table, please provide to Leah once you get onboard. She will be leading the raffle event and will have a table set-up in the back of the cabin with all the free nature-themed items. Thank you in advance!
  • Plankton Tow, Chumming for Seabirds and Underwater Camera Activities. If it makes sense given the conditions offshore, we will conduct a plankton tow (with onboard observation) and Tom Robben is bringing some underwater cameras. We will also chum for seabirds if aggregations of seabirds are offshore. 
  • NECWA Merchandise. NECWA will bring a limited number of sweatshirts, t-shirts, canvas bags, and windbreakers onboard for sale. Please bring cash if you would like to purchase something. If you see something in our online shop and would like me to bring it for you tomorrow (to save shipping costs), just let me know. 

Krill Carson