Oct 25, 2008

What's killing our turtles, dugongs?

The Daily Mercury, Mackay Queensland Australia, 25 Oct 08;

DENISE Abraham is furrowing her brow.

She is deeply concerned about the spate of sea animals that have washed up on Armstrong Beach this month.

Ms Abraham said in the past four weeks two turtles and two dugongs had been spotted dead just above the water line.

"I have in lived in Armstrong beach for the past 18 months and never come across anything like this before," she said.

"I want to know why this is occurring."

The Environmental Protection Agency downplayed the deaths attributing them to natural causes.

A spokesperson said all the animals appeared to have died of natural causes without any evidence of boat strike or other human interference.

"During the nesting season turtles use a lot of energy and are more vulnerable to disease, weakness, and predators," the spokesperson said.

"Any one of these factors combined with recent heavy weather conditions may have contributed to the recent strandings."

The spokesperson said it was possible that fresh water and sediment from flooding earlier in the year may have affected seagrass growth in the area.

"As seagrass is the main food source for both turtles and dugongs this may have been a contributing factor to one or more of the recent strandings."

The spokesperson said the strandings in the Mackay area this month were consistent with stranding numbers that might be expected at this time of year and those from previous years.

"Turtles are more frequently found on beaches at this time of year, and will generally be either nesting or basking," the spokesperson said.

"Turtles bask on shore for reasons such as resting, escaping predators and to regulate their body temperature."

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