Environmentalists blame fishermen for turtle deaths

Pretoma/Clyde Aspinall
This turtle appears to have been hooked and
carried away some of the fishing line.

The mystery of the turtle deaths in the Pacific deepens.

Credible sources say that many of the dead turtles had been pierced by fishing hooks. Equally credible sources say they did not see hooks.

Most persons in the area agree that there are many dead turtles. But the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas said Tuesday that its officer could only find 15 dead turtles and that the deaths appeared to be due to some form of bacterial infection.

Meanwhile, a press statement from Luis Diego Marín Schumacher of Preserve Planet and a Web posting by the Asociación Programa de Restauración de Tortugas Marinas blamed fishing operations and hooks for the death.

There were photos of dead turtles with hooks in their mouth or legs. One photo distributed to the press was attributed to Clyde Aspinall and was dated Saturday.

William Mahan Patterson said by email Wednesday that he is staying between Pavones and Punta Banco. He said he saw dozens of dead turtles on nearby beaches and that a person he met who had walked from Punta Burica said they had seen between 200 and 300 turtles dead on the beach.

“These people have lived here most of their lives and have never seen such a massive amount of dead turtles,” said Patterson. “and they are not liars. I have talked to dozens of other people that confirm these reports.” He said locals attribute the deaths to tuna fishing boats. He said the turtles could be caught in tuna nets and drowned. But he said he did not see any hooks.

Area residents Jason Borner and his wife Tanya Harrison were quoted by Preserve Planet saying that they had photographed 13 dead turtles within 20 minutes.

In addition to the olive ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) collected by the coast guard, it appears that there are dead green turtles (Chelonia mydas), too.

Paterson, a tourist, said in his email that “this must be addressed immediately as it is doing major damage to an already very threatened species. The president has an opportunity to show the world that it walks its talk on conservation. It is within her power to do something about it and help make the world more aware of the seriousness of the crisis we are facing in this world.”

Marín, regional coordinator of Preserve Planet, said that “Once again the magnitude of the massacres that the Costa Rican fishing fleet is provoking have come to the public light.”

The Programa de Restauración de Tortugas Marinas quoted a biologist with Asociación Widecast saying that autopsies on dead turtles failed to find an infection in the internal organs. He is Didhier Chacón, who also ruled out the possibility of toxins generated by red tides, said the organization.

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