Hundreds of sea turtles stranded on Texas beach

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Authorities are baffled after hundreds of sea turtles were stranded on Texas beaches.

A record total of 282 loggerhead turtles appeared in Texas between April 1 and August 19, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service press release, which is more than double the total strandings in any year from 2012 to 2021. The reason for the sharp spike is unclear.

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“The annual numbers have increased during this decade,” noted Donna J. Shaver, coordinator of the Texas Sea Turtle Stranding and Rescue Network (STSSN) and head of the Marine Turtle Science and Recovery Division at the National Service. of Padre Island National Seashore Park, in the statement.

“This dramatic increase in loggerhead strandings this year is alarming and has STSSN participants on high alert at the Coastal Bend to be ready for the increased influx of disabled loggerheads in need of immediate rescue and care.”

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There are five species of sea turtles found in the Gulf of Mexico. Loggerheads are the most abundant species to nest in the United States, although their population has still faced decline, largely due to bycatch from fishing operations. As adults, sea turtles can be over 1 meter and weigh up to 160 kilograms, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Over the past decade, an average of 109 loggerhead sea turtles have washed up on Texas beaches each year, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The majority of this year’s strandings occurred in Coastal Bend, Texas, between Calhoun and Kleberg counties. About two-thirds of beached sea turtles are found dead, according to the service. Those found alive are “underweight and weakened”.

“At Coastal Bend, about a third of beached loggerheads were found alive and are being cared for at permitted rehabilitation facilities, including Amos Rehabilitation Keep, Texas State Aquarium and Texas Sealife Center,” said Mary Kay Skoruppa, US Fish and Texas Wildlife Service sea turtle coordinator in the statement.

“Affected loggerheads were found to be underweight and weakened. They are receiving diligent care in rehab, and we hope most will recover and ultimately be released back to the Gulf of Mexico.”

Scientists were able to rule out some causes of the strandings: they are not due to infectious diseases, biotoxins or fishing-related catches, the service outlined.

Instead, scientists think the explanation may lie in changes in the sea turtles’ habitat and access to prey, according to the statement. Investigators are collecting samples from both live and dead sea turtles to identify what factors may be behind the mysterious strandings.

People passing by, if they see a turtle stranding, should contact the US Fish and Wildlife Service and stay close, if you can, to help authorities find the animal.

“It takes a lot of coordination between trained and authorized individuals to successfully rescue stranded sea turtles,” Skoruppa said in the statement. “It is therefore critical that citizens report the act immediately so that rescue efforts can begin quickly.”

Source: CNN Brasil

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