Officials check out a dead turtle on a Guerrero beach. Officials check out a dead turtle on a Guerrero beach.

Guerrero turtle deaths natural phenomenon: biologist

More than 100 dead sea turtles have appeared so far this month

More than 110 sea turtles have been found dead on beaches in Guerrero so far this month, causing widespread alarm. But a marine biologist says it’s a natural phenomenon.

Manuel Salvador Gómez Galeana, a member of the Guerrero Sea Turtle Protection and Investigation Board, explained that the recent wave of deaths of the endangered species was caused principally by microorganisms that live in cold ocean currents.

The marine biologist said that salpa, a zooplankton, sometimes carry high levels of toxins which, when they come in contact with the turtles, paralyze and kill them.

This is not the first time large numbers of sea turtles have washed up dead on the beaches of Guerrero. In 2009 between 500 and 600 dead turtles were found and a similar number perished in the same way in 2016.

Gómez predicted that because of the way climate change affects ocean currents, this year could see a much higher number of sea turtle deaths.

The biologist added that illegal fishing techniques, especially using nets in which turtles get trapped, have also been responsible for many deaths.

Gómez said there was no way to defend the turtles against the phenomenon, but urged authorities to set up a surveillance and rescue operation for paralyzed sea turtles.

“We should be very aware of ocean currents in the high seas in order to detect turtles adrift in the ocean so that we can then organize a rescue . . . .”

The marine biologist said that authorities currently lack an appropriate strategy for handling the dead turtles, often arriving on a beach only to take pictures and conduct a body count. He added that some officials bury them on the beach, but others leave them there to be eaten by vultures.

So far, dead sea turtles have been found in Coyuca de Benítez, San Jerónimo, Tecpan de Galeana, Acapulco and the Costa Chica region in Guerrero.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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