Wildlife officials say at least 35 endangered sea turtles have washed up on Gulf coast beaches, but it’s not clear what’s killing them. Necropsies have shown no signs of oil.
Investigators will look into whether some shrimp boats taking part in an emergency shrimping season removed devices from their nets that are intended to allow turtles to escape, said Sheryan Epperly, sea turtle team leader for the National Marine Fisheries Service.
“The agency has been trying to collect information on not just the trawling fisheries but any other fishing that may have been going on in the area,” Epperly said. “If the turtle excluder device is not properly used, then that likely could lead to the deaths of any turtles that get caught in the nets.” Given the endangered status of Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, among the most imperiled turtles in the world, tissue samples being collected and examined are being “kept in the chain of custody ... in the event that it could end up in court,” Epperly said. Shrimping has long been blamed for sea turtle deaths. Shrimpers are required to install grid-like devices in their nets that are designed to allow turtles to escape. Shrimpers caught without the turtle excluder devices, or TEDs, may be fined thousands of dollars and have their catch seized by federal regulators. Jimmy Rowell, a third-generation shrimper who has been plowing these water for 46 years, said the turtle deaths weren’t caused by fishermen. Rowell said the devices to protect turtles have cost shrimpers 20 per cent of their catch, but that it’s not worth the fines by fishing without them. “The commercial fishermen are the best environmentalists out here,” he said.

Bird species facing rapid decline
A new survey has found that 148 land bird species in North America are facing rapid decline, the majority of them in Mexico. The assessment, the first ever to include all three countries, reveals information about populations and migratory patterns and is intended as a tool for conservationists. It was released by Partners in Flight, a cooperative of government agencies, conservation groups, academics and philanthropists. The study has detailed information on the 882 species of land birds that live across the continent. One-third of them spend substantial amounts of time in at least two of the countries, it found.
“Birds don’t know boundaries,” said Ashley Dayer, one of the managing editors of the report and a doctoral student at Cornell University, focusing on bird conservation. Species that live in the United States often winter in Mexico or breed in Canada, she said. The imperiled birds include 124 species that are mostly found in Mexico like the thick-billed parrot, the horned guan and the resplendent quetzal, a green, red and white bird with long tail feathers that feeds on avocados.
Sindya N Bhanoo
NYT News Service

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