April 30, 2010

Endangered Turtle Death Rates Rising In Texas

An unusually high number of endangered sea turtles have died along the Gulf Coast of Texas this month, and researchers are struggling to try and find out why, according to a Friday article by Associated Press (AP) Writer Ramit Plushnick-masti.

According to Plushnick-masti's report, researchers have found 32 dead turtles and three live ones stranded near Galveston and Houston, including 33 endangered Kemp's ridleys. That is double what scientists normally see during this time of the year, as the turtles begin nesting.

"Many of the turtles appear to have propeller wounds from boats or have become entangled in fishing nets or lines," the AP writer says, citing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) biologist Lyndsey Howell as the source. "Others have parasites or are emaciated"¦ [but] most are so decomposed that there are few clues left about why they died."

According to Roger Zimmerman, lab director of the NOAA marine fishery laboratory in Galveston, the fatality rate among the turtles does tend to rise somewhat when they swim closer to shore to next, as April also marks the start of the area's shrimping season.

However, Zimmerman also told the AP that the number of deceased turtles is "more than we would normally expect"¦ We are concerned and we'll keep an eye on it."

According to the National Parks Service (NPS) website, the Kemp's ridley (or Lepidochelys kempii) is one of five sea turtle species commonly found in the Gulf of Mexico. It is the smallest of the quintet, is typically less than 27.5 inches long, and weighs about 100 pounds. It is the only sea turtle with a nearly circular upper shell, and is the most endangered species of sea turtle in America.


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