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Marine officials seeing a record number of stranded loggerhead sea turtles

July 2022 Loggerhead
Posted at 4:38 PM, Sep 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-02 18:53:27-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are seeing a record number of loggerhead sea turtle strandings along the Texas coast.

Between April 1 and Aug. 19, 282 loggerheads have been stranded in Texas, mostly in the Coastal Bend, between Calhoun and Kleberg counties.

This year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — along with local groups like the Padre Island National Seashore — are urging you to report any turtles seen on the beaches or shorelines so that they can be rescued and cared for.

"This is more than twice the average annual number of loggerhead strandings recorded from 2012 to 2021, which was 109, and annual numbers have increased during this decade," said Donna Shaver, Chief of the Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery at the Padre Island National Seashore. "This dramatic increase in loggerhead strandings this year is alarming."

Loggerhead sea turtles are one of five species of sea turtle known to inhabit the Gulf of Mexico. Adults are about 3 ft. long and can weigh up to 350 pounds.

In the Coastal Bend, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said around one-third of stranded loggerheads have been found alive, and are being treated at rehabilitation facilities including the Amos Rehabilitation Keep (ARK), Texas State Aquarium, and Texas Sealife Center.

Researchers are investigating possible causes of these strandings. According to Shaver, the increase in strandings may be habitat-related — such as decreases in prey availability, freshwater inflows, and water quality — and exposure to hypoxic areas and contaminated prey.

To date, infectious diseases, biotoxins, and fisheries-related captures have been ruled out as major causes for the loggerhead strandings.

The investigation into the increase in strandings is ongoing and includes detailed necropsy of deceased turtles, extensive sampling of live and dead turtles, and environmental analyses to understand factors that may be contributing to these strandings.

Officials urge those who come across sea turtles to never touch or try to move them. It could either be sick, injured, or nesting this time of year.

To report a stranded sea turtle, contact the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network at 1-866-TURTLE-5 or 1-866-887-8535.