Mexico’s federal agency for environmental protection announced on Tuesday that over 300 olive ridley sea turtles after becoming entangled in a fishing net.
Fishermen in the southern state of Oaxaca discovered the hundreds of carcass near Barra de Colotepec, said Heliodoro Diaz from the agency.
The animals were found floating tangled up together with their shells cracked, testament to more than a week of drying out in the sun.
Olive ridley turtles come on shore to lay their eggs from May to September.
Marine biologist Bryan Wallace, a senior scientist at the Conservation Science Partners Inc. said there isn’t much information about how the incident occurred but it is believed the turtles may have fallen victim to “ghost nets” which are “gear that was lost by its owner and not retrieved for one reason or another.” The nets continue to drift in the ocean and inadvertently catch fish and other marine creatures. As these animals get trapped, they cannot get food and die from overexposure to the sun. Their carcasses attract even more animals, which too get stuck in the net.
“To catch that many turtles means it was probably fishing on its own for a good while, based on the level of decomposition evident in many of the animals,” said Wallace.
The news came just days after 133 sea turtles — many of them olive ridley — were found washed ashore. It isn’t confirmed what killed the animals but some of the carcasses showed signs of injuries from nets and hooks.
Mexican authorities are currently investigating what led to these events but Wallace said people should not be quick to blame the fishermen for the sea turtles’ deaths.
“This is a super complicated issue and there are a lot of communities, especially in Mexico, who do their best and are trying to do more, and they already live in a pretty challenging set of circumstances,” Wallace told National Geographic. “This is not a new thing. It’s just going to take a while.”
Although the olive ridley sea turtles are listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in Mexico, the population falls under the category of endangered. Globally, the species is at a decline and considered vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
But because of Mexico’s tighter conservation regulations, olive ridley turtles are managing better than other species of turtles. In fact, you can found tens of thousands of nesting females in Mexico’s southwestern coastline, which is one of the largest rookeries for the animals in the world.
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: REUTERS/Fredy Garcia