A sad sight along the shores of New York Harbor. The body of a lifeless sea turtle was discovered this morning on a beach in Sandy Hook Bay, located downstream from New York City.
The body was badly decomposed. Not much to protect or make an identification. Scavengers in the water had a good meal. Recent storms and high winds must have combined to wash up the poor critter.
It was a small sea turtle, less than three feet in length. Certainly a juvenile, but since the body was so severely decomposed it was hard to tell what species. Most likely either a young loggerhead or Kemp’s Ridley. These are the two most common sea turtles to call New York Harbor home during the warmer months of the year.
It was pretty obvious what killed the little sea turtle. The top shell, carapace, had a big gash in the middle due to human impact, a propeller injury.
Speeding boats can be dangerous to wildlife in the water. Some of the damage comes from the propeller, which can slice through a turtle’s shell very easily. Other damage is caused by the force of the boat strike. A turtle’s shell is hard, but not as hard as a boat hull. A boat strikes can result in cuts and deformities. Sometimes when they get hit by the boat, it causes that turtle to float. This might do damage to the lungs and muscles surrounding them, and nerve damage. Because of this floating problem, the turtle is unable to submerge and remains at the surface, where it will often starve to death.
Loggerheads and kemp’s ridley sea turtles travel thousands of miles throughout the world's waterways to forage for food, regularly swimming into New York Harbor to feed on the rich abundance of sea life in the bay. Loggerheads are listed as a threatened species and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. Their population is minus one now.
How You Can Help Protect Sea Turtles
- Properly dispose of your garbage. Turtles may mistake plastic bags, styrofoam, and trash floating in the water as food and die when this trash blocks their intestines.
- Celebrate events without the use of helium balloon releases. Like plastic trash, balloons end up in the ocean, especially when released near the coast. Sea turtles mistakenly eat the balloons and die.
- When boating, stay alert and avoid sea turtles. Propeller and collision impacts from boats and ships can result in injury and death of sea turtles. Stay in channels