Even though 2015’s numbers are comparatively much lower than last year, it seems that sea turtle stranding numbers have been affected by the warm season, which may not be an entirely good thing. The current tally lies at 450 in the Cape Cod region, relatively low when one would look at the 1,242 strandings of 2014.
Even though these events have lowered in number, the state in which turtles are found are extremely disconcerting. Last year, the number got hiked because of a cold northern wind that swept the area, forcing them to seek shelter on land or simply paralyzing them, letting the waters carry them back to shore. But this year, due to warm temperatures, turtles are still in open waters, despite the fact that they haven’t had any food source since October.
This makes the large majority of turtles washed ashore to be found dead. Those still alive are suffering from severe pneumonia and malnutrition. Teams from the Quincy aquarium have analyzed the rescued turtles and have released a rather troubling fact. With each passing week, the number of dead turtles grows exponentially, because they do not get the signals required for them to move on.
Although the only reason why the turtles are still alive is the fact that the current temperature still sits at about 50 degrees, their prolonged stay may bring the death of an estimated 500 turtles that are still in the vicinity. Nonetheless, volunteers are still prepared to help them in any way possible if they get washed ashore or if they are found near the shoreline.
Because climate change brings alongside it warmer temperatures, the future of the turtles is still clouded in mystery. We still do not know what currently happens off-shore in regards to their general state of well-being or health.
What is fortunate is the fact that despite their massive numbers present during the breeding season, only one loggerhead turtle has been found ashore. This makes marine biologists hope that these turtles have managed to escape the area, going towards regions that still have food sources. If they would have stayed near Cape Cod, they would have suffered from the same issues plaguing Kemp’s ridley and green turtles.
Another beneficial factor is the fact that this year, the turtle population has gained an increase in both Texas and Mexico. Most likely this is possible from a combination between efforts made by conservation groups and the lack of cold temperatures in bays and marinas.
The dangers posed by a sudden influx of cold winds and waters are immense, especially if a high number of turtles is still located in the vicinity. When struck by an abnormal temperature decrease, turtles get stunned and remain immobile, bobbing up and down on the surface of the water, eventually reaching the shoreline. Volunteers and rescue groups are currently awaiting a change in weather in order to better discern the variable causes that lead to turtle strandings. The currently viable cause is a combination of temperature level and the amount of time spent in cold waters.
Although turtle stranding numbers have been affected by the warm season in an apparent positive way, on a longer term, this might bring a larger number of dead turtles ashore. But this is completely dependent on the general temperature of the area.