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U.S. releases sea turtle in China on eve of President Xi Jinping’s first official U.S. visit

by Marcia Caldirola    Sept.21, 2015
  • Baby rescued sea turtle "Ariza" prepares to return back to nature

  • Rescued turtle is released by U.S. Consul Aaron Benesh and Westin GM Douglas Giammaria

  • Volunteers watch "Ariza" the baby sea turtle swim away

  • Volunteers and locals clean up beaches

  • U.S. Consul educates children while volunteers treat rescued turtle

  • Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture presentation

  • Sea Turtles 911's Lily Fu educates fishermen and officials

  • Local fishermen and officials listen to sustainability practices

  • U.S. Consul Aaron Benesh talks to fishermen and officials

  • Officials and fishermen as Sea Turtles 911 volunteers

In commemoration of International Coastal Cleanup Day, local community members in China cleaned up beaches along the shore of Hainan island, the "Hawaii of China". This year's event comes at a critical time when China’s President Xi Jinping arrives tomorrow in the United States for his first official visit. The Chinese President is expected to address issues of mutual significance, including environmental protection. As President Xi has said, "We should be fully aware of the urgency and difficulty of protecting the environment and reducing pollution as well as the significance and necessity of improving the environment for the sake of our people and our children."

Sea Turtles 911 and the Westin Blue Bay Hotel teamed up with the U.S. State Department's Consulate in Guangzhou China to raise awareness of the global issues impacting endangered sea turtles. Less than one week ago, a new research study found that more than half of the world's sea turtles have eaten plastic. After cleaning the beaches to reduce the risks of wildlife from accidentally ingesting pieces of debris, U.S. Consul Aaron Benesh, along with local government officials, volunteers, fishermen, students, and community members successfully released a rescued sea turtle hatchling named "Ariza" back into the ocean. Sea Turtles 911 Founding Director, Frederick Yeh, hailed the release of Ariza as a global conservation success saying, “Humanity is at its best on a day when world leaders are promoting solutions to the ongoing environmental crisis, and even more important is communities gathering on behalf of practicing environmentalism.” After the turtle was released, Sea Turtles 911 hosted a presentation to local officials and fishermen to promote conservation awareness, the U.S.-China EcoPartnership, and best practices in sustainable fisheries and responsible aquaculture. The bilateral U.S.-China EcoPartnership was established in 2008 to promote global environmental sustainability, including Sea Turtles 911's efforts to raise community awareness for marine turtle conservation.

The baby sea turtle was named in honor of Douglas Ariza-Giammaria, the Westin’s General Manager, who has been a strong supporter and volunteer for local conservation efforts. The turtle Ariza was sick and near death when rescued from the pet trade by Sea Turtles 911. After three months of rehabilitation at the organization’s floating sea turtle hospital, the concerted efforts of volunteers succeeded in reviving her. Because of their small size, baby sea turtle hatchlings are sought after as pets in China, and often get sick due to the difficulty of maintaining exotic animals in captivity. The visit of President Xi Jinping and the release of Ariza are excellent opportunities for the world to recognize and rectify humanity’s failure to safeguard the environment, protect endangered animals, and build momentum for enlightened global stewardship before it is too late.

Read the local news report of this event.