A mass death of sea turtles. Worrying.
Hundreds of sea turtles, many dead and some with signs of concussion, have been washed up on the Pacific coasts of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador and elsewhere in Central America.
Researchers in Costa Rica believe the culprit to be seasonal red tides, which secrete a potent neurotoxin, although conservationists suspect the turtles may have got caught in commercial fishing nets, or trammels.
Nestor Herrera, the head of wildlife and ecosystems at the Salvadoran environment ministry, said that saxitoxin, which is produced by red tide and affects the nervous system, was a likely reason, although red tides occur every year and such numerous incidents have not previously been recorded.
However the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network (Widecast) and other conservation organisations believe fishing practices including trawling, longline and drillnet fishing and the use of explosives are to blame and are calling for more sustainable fishing practices.
It’s not clear if this is red tide or fishing practices. The fishing industry will press for one explanation and others will push the alternative.
But some threats are very clear:
Thousands of sea turtles drown in commercial shrimp nets each year. Shrimpers accidentally entangle turtles that are foraging where trawlers are working. This mortality may be increasing. In 1947, 5,000 U.S. shrimping trawlers worked in the Gulf of Mexico. That number increased to 15,000 full-time and 40,000 part-time trawlers by 1989.
The US federal government is also investigating sea turtle strandings in the Gulf of Mexico which has been increasing in the past few years.
One rumor going around is that a dog died instantly after eating a dead turtle. I would put no stock in such a rumor until significantly more information comes it. There may be many reasons for the dog to die, if the story is even true (which has not been confirmed). It just serves to cause greater panic.