Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sea Turtles Might Be Following the Jellyfish North Into Our Waters

People on the coast of Massachusetts, including the islands seem to be seeing more sea turtles -- leatherbacks and loggerheads -- this season, and it might possibly be because there seem to be more jellyfish in the area (when it comes to observing nature, every generalization is conditional, it seems).

Unfortunately some of them are turning up dead, like the leatherback found on Cuttyhunk the other day, and two others found elsewhere. Here's what the Cape Cod Times reported:

"It is a female, about 500 pounds, that was tagged from West Trinidad," said Bob Prescott, sanctuary director for the Massachusetts Audubon Society's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.

"We are trying to learn as much about it as we can."

Earlier this month:

Keith Kauppila found a dead leatherback washed up on the rocks in front of his house on Ricketson's Point in Dartmouth on the night of July 13. That came after a day of heavy surf produced by Hurricane Bertha.

Another leatherback was found on Popponesset Beach in Mashpee on July 3.

Three dead leatherbacks have also been found in Rhode Island.

It's not clear though whether six dead leatherbacks by late July is unusual, or if there are really even more of them this year (but if there are, they might be chasing jellyfish). But there's no doubt that people are seeing more, which indicates something:

There could be more of them nearby this year because they were pushed up the coast by Hurricane Bertha. Or it could be people are just seeing them more, wildlife officials say.

"We get called out 15 or 20 times a year to free turtles that get tangled in fishing gear," said Brian Sharp, a rescue associate with the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies.

"We are getting a lot of calls about turtles this year," said Prescott.

"The water is warm this year. It might be that. We are also told there are a lot of jellyfish (which the turtles eat) in the area. It might be that.

"But it does appear there are more leatherbacks than usual this year."

In Rhode Island and Connecticut, biologists from the Mystic Aquarium respond to calls of turtles in distress. There have been three dead loggerheads in Rhode Island in July.

"We are getting a few more calls, but not significantly more," said Cindy Davis, a stranding assistant with the Mystic Aquarium. "We get calls from July to October."

There's an excellent chance that some of these turtles, and others, will make their way into Long Island Sound (if they haven't already). Kemp's ridley sea turtles (which are much smaller than the 100 pounds the Cape Cod Times story says they are) are fairly common in the Sound and Peconic Bay, in late summer and fall, and 20-some years ago I wrote about a dead green turtle that had washed ashore in Rye. Here's everything I've blogged about sea turtles.

I found this, by the way, thanks to Chris Zurcher.

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Blogger wahoo said...

Yep... saw a sea turtle in Fairfield CT last week, right where there have been tons of jellyfish for a couple weeks.

10:33 AM  

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