San Diego Bay green turtles and closure of the South Bay Power Plant
A statement from NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center green turtle researchers
With the closure of the South Bay Power Plant there has been much interest in how the local green turtle population will be impacted. While the warm effluent water from the plant allowed these turtles to remain active and forage throughout the year, which in turn resulted in relatively fast growth rates, the plant's closure will allow the bay to return to its natural state. We believe that green turtles have resided in San Diego Bay since long before the construction of the power plant, due to a variety of scientific clues. From the observations of green turtles at other locations where water temperatures can be even less than that of San Diego Bay without the power plant effluent, we know that green turtles are capable of coping with the "new" environment after the plant's closure. Looking forward, we predict that San Diego Bay green turtles will more frequently exhibit overwintering behavior during which they remain inactive on the seafloor for extended periods during the coldest times of the year. While green turtles are expected to prosper even without the Power Plant, it is likely that their affinities to the areas closest to the power plant will relax over time and turtles may be exposed to increased threats from boat traffic if they begin to frequent areas of the Bay outside the relatively sheltered southern portion. Also, as a consequence of increased overwintering and shortened activity seasons, their growth rates will likely become slower.
Please direct any questions about power plant dismantling to: Eric Chavez - NOAA SWRO Habitat Division 562 980 4064