Sea turtle mass deaths

A mass death of sea turtles. Worrying.

Wildlife Extra News – Hundreds of sea turtles found dead along Central American coast.

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.

More: No One Can Work Out Why Hundreds Of Dead Sea Turtles Are Washing Up On Central America’s Beaches – Business Insider.

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.

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  3 comments for “Sea turtle mass deaths

  1. spookyparadigm
    November 17, 2013 at 9:40 PM

    My immediate guess would be the fishing. That makes sense.

    Except for this

    “And in Nicaragua there is yet another problem: turtles showed up weeks late, at the end of September, to crawl up onto the beach and lay their eggs”

    I’m not a biologist, but how is that not related to climate? Now, maybe it’s a one-off. But that seems like the obvious first place to look for at least that particular issue.

  2. November 18, 2013 at 12:22 AM

    While red-tide and commercial trawling could be the culprit, I wonder if it’s not just a freak accident. I mean, there have been recent instances of mass deaths in animal populations that look unusual to some observers, but scientifically are not unusual occurrences. Mass die offs, sometimes by seemingly improbable events, occur all the time. It is easy for a group with political goals to use such events to accuse other groups of causing such events, especially considering that the coverage of the events occur rapidly, but only select people could interpret the events properly. I’m not saying commercial fishing is to blame, but natural disasters can ravage animal populations just as easily as it can ravage human ones. I guess all I’m saying is, this article only posits two plausible explanations, but given news about other mass die offs being used politically when they really wound up being natural occurrences, I’m skeptical about the second explanation. As far as red tide, that doesn’t account for the evidence of concussion, unless something caused damage to mimic concussion post mortem.

    • Lagaya1
      November 18, 2013 at 12:35 AM

      The concussion part is a little baffling to me, too; unless the turtles are too ill to navigate away from hazards or something like that.

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