Sea Turtle Necropsy
Picture by: Monica Allen, NOAA Fisheries Picture taken on: July 7th, 2010
Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage network partners from the Florida panhandle to the Louisiana/Texas border collected approximately 600 dead turtles during the response effort from late April through October 20, 2010. Dr. Brian Stacy, the lead sea turtle veterinarian for NOAA’s Fisheries Service, examined them to determine cause of death. Although necropsy results are still being analyzed, many of the carcasses were fresh enough to evaluate their digestive tracts. Many of those turtles, especially those found April through June, had been eating fish or shrimp. Sea turtles are not known to catch free swimming fish and shrimp, suggesting these turtles were feeding in areas with high discard of bycatch from fishing operations or feeding inside shrimp trawls. Additional information from the necropsies suggests many of these turtles were likely caught in fishing nets and drowned. Each year, sea turtles die from drowning in fishing operations. Fishermen and scientists have worked for years to develop and put in place turtle excluder devices to protect sea turtles. Turtle excluder devices are a grid within a net that directs turtles toward an escape opening allowing them to swim free of the net. Not all trawl fisheries are required to use these turtle excluder devices and compliance with existing regulations is not 100 percent.
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