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Friday, June 25, 2010

Gulf oil spill: Many sea turtles drowned since gusher began

JUNE 24, 2010  DAY 66 

Source LA Times: Many sea turtle drowning and washing up on shore

 It has been an exhausting and depressing detective enterprise, trying to establish how hundreds of sea turtlesoil spill. died before washing up on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon
Now it appears that oil was not the direct cause for many of the turtles that died in the first days after the spill began. Rather, early necropsy findings show that 21 of 40 intact turtle carcasses examined showed signs of drowning, or aspiration of sediment from the seafloor, according to Barbara Schroeder, national sea turtle coordinator for the National Marine Fisheries Service.
That suggests the turtles could have become caught in shrimp nets during the special fishing season, which opened in the immediate aftermath of the spill. But investigators also will try to determine whether a toxic algae bloom could have paralyzed the turtles and caused them to drown -- a somewhat less likely prospect, since no toxic blooms known to be dangerous to turtles have been found in the area.
After the death of large numbers of sea turtles in shrimp nets in recent years, shrimpers have been required to open an escapement device in their nets to allow turtles to swim out safely. But turtle researchers fear that some fishermen may have closed their nets in the rush to catch as many shrimp as they could before fishing grounds were closed off with the rapidly spreading oil spill.
More will be known when researchers complete their toxicology tests. Necropsies are yet to be conducted on turtles that washed up more recently. Oil may have been a bigger factor there, researchers say. And the impact of oil in the water and in turtles' food sources also is yet to be determined.
--Kim Murphy
Photo: A dead sea turtle lies in the sand in Grand Isle, La., where beaches have been pockmarked with oil. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Additional Links:

Deepwater Horizon Incident, Gulf of Mexico

As the nation’s leading scientific resource for oil spills, NOAA has been on the scene of the BP oil spill from the start, providing coordinated scientific weather and biological response services to federal, state and local organizations. More [leaves OR&R site] is a new online tool that employs the Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA®) a web-based GIS platform that provides you with near-real time information about the response effort. The site offers you a "one-stop shop" for spill response information.
The site integrates the latest data the federal responders have about the oil spill’s trajectory with fishery area closures, wildlife data and place-based Gulf Coast resources — such as pinpointed locations of oiled shoreline and current positions of deployed research ships — into one customizable interactive map.
Read More: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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