Sea turtles in Georgia – 05/20/2004

  • September 30, 2013 at 8:50 pm #490
    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
    turtle researcher.

    “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,
    Mackinnon said.

    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,
    Dodd said.

    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

    All commercial shrimpers must have fully functional Turtle Excluder
    Devices installed in their fishing nets, according to federal and
    state law.

    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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