September 30, 2013 at 8:50 pm #490MikeKeymaster
Morris News Service
BRUNSWICK – A near-record number of sea turtle deaths are being
investigated by wildlife biologists with the Georgia Department of
Natural Resources and federal marine fisheries authorities.
The bodies of 43 decomposing turtles including green, loggerhead,
leatherback and Kemp’s ridley were discovered last week on Southeast
Georgia beaches, said Mark Dodd, department sea turtle program
In addition, another dozen sea turtles have been found dead so far
this week, said Adam Mackinnon, a department wildlife technician and
“We suspect that most of the turtles drowned as the result of the
commercial shrimp trawls currently operating in federal waters off
our coast,” Dodd said. “Most of the dead turtles were basically
healthy, well-fed animals with no visible injuries or other obvious
reason to be dead.”
Most of the turtles killed were loggerheads, including at least three
adult females of nesting age. The dead also included 13 Kemp’s
ridley, considered to be the most endangered sea turtle in the world,
The turtles all were moderately to severely decomposed when found.
That is consistent with them dying in federal waters and then being
carried by the current to wash up on the Southeast Georgia beaches,
Georgia Department of Natural Resources wildlife technician Adam
Mackinnon points out the remains of two endangered Kemp’s Ridley
Turtles at the Jekyll Island bone-yard Tuesday. The two were part of
43 dead sea turtles found on Georgia shores last week. The third
largest numbers of dead turtles in a week on DNR records. CHRIS VIOLA
THE GEORGIA TIMES UNION
All commercial shrimpers must have fully functional Turtle Excluder
Devices installed in their fishing nets, according to federal and
Those devices, when installed properly, allow sea turtles to quickly
and automatically escape if accidentally swept up in the huge
trawling nets used to catch shrimp.
Scientists think that the dead turtles had drowned as the result of
an accidental malfunction or deliberate alteration of the excluder
devices, Dodd said.
“We suspect that the TEDs might not be installed properly or there
might be illegal fishing activity by partially disabling the TEDs,
which is resulting in turtles drowning,” Dodd said.
Dodd said they are asking authorities with the National Marine
Fisheries Service to help investigate.
So far, the deaths appear limited to the Georgia coast, authorities
said. Mackinnon said dead turtles have washed ashore from Tybee
Island south to Cumberland Island.
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