Troubled Waters: A Turtle’s Tale

  • Fred Vigeant

Troubled Water’s: A Turtle’s Tale is a one-hour film that explores the impact of human behavior on our environment as seen through the lens of one of South Florida’s most beloved and fragile underwater creatures—the sea turtle. This film broadcasts Wednesday August 12 at 8pm.

Featuring acclaimed actor and ocean activist Ted Danson and narrated by Peter Coyote, this film will take a critical look at the effects of global warming, water pollution and our “throw-away” plastic lifestyle on this keystone species…and inevitably ourselves. Human impact on endangered sea turtles ranges from climate change, rising seas, commercial fishing, polluted waters, discarded nets, hooks and fishing lines, and most significantly, trash, specifically plastic in our oceans. With ocean health intricately linked to human activity, Troubled Waters will reveal some of the technological advancements that are tackling the challenges faced by turtles and other marine mammals today.

At the center of Troubled Waters is a dedicated team of biologists, researchers and conservationists. The story begins on the shores of Palm Beach County, Florida, where conservationists at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center rescue and rehabilitate thousands of injured sea turtles a year, many of whom are found wrapped in trash, struck by boats or poisoned from toxic waters. Conservationists interviewed say nearly 100 percent of baby sea turtles are found with bellies filled with plastics, causing birth defects, food chain issues and all too often, premature death.

Down in the Florida Keys, Marathon Turtle Hospital manager Bette Zirkelbach, alongside a team of experts, work diligently every day to save, rehabilitate and release turtles. The world’s first licensed veterinarian hospital for sea turtles, founded by Richie Moretti in the 1980’s, tackles yet another life-threatening problem specific to our sea turtles – a virus called Fibropapilloma.

At Florida Atlantic University (FAU), one marine biologist has dedicated the last 40 years of her career to solving the profound effect of rising temperatures on the sex of sea turtle hatchlings. On Florida’s Gulf Coast, a young marine biologist spends grueling hours in the sun recovering deceased turtles and other marine life along the coast due to the unrelenting toxic red tide bloom of 2018. Water management, fertilizer, chemical runoff, development, spraying of herbicides in our lakes, and the role of the Everglades no longer able to filter water, all energizing a toxic stew, much like warm waters feed and strengthen a hurricane.
While Florida serves as the heart of the film, the story extends across the U.S. to the National Energy Commission in Golden Colorado where chemical engineers are using bacteria and microbes to develop plastics that may one day decompose in just one year as opposed to hundreds or even thousands.

Troubled Waters will lead viewers to one single conclusion, that this is not simply a Florida problem, it is indeed a worldwide concern. While education, political will, technology and science offers hope, changing human behavior is crucial. Troubled Waters will reveal the challenges confronting the largest resource of life on earth and offer solutions and actions that can be taken to help turn back the tide.

Watch Troubled Water’s: A Turtle’s Tale Wednesday August 12 at 8pm on WITF.

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