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Environmentalists studying impact of sea turtle mortality rate from excessive sargasso

Cancun, Q.R. — The State Committee for Management and Conservation of Sea Turtles have begun to assess the impact the excessive beached seaweed has had on the local sea turtle population.

The thick mass of seaweed has created impassable barriers for new hatchlings trying to make their way to the sea. Many get stuck and die. A report was presented last week on the number of hatchling losses, not only from becoming entangled in the seaweed, but also from females not being able to reach the sand to lay their eggs.

Rocio Galicia Peralta, president of the State Committee for Management and Conservation of Sea Turtles, says, “Right now we have a few reported cases of mortality from the protected areas and we want to evaluate how much the kelp affects the turtles. There is a record of how often turtles die from the kelp problems.”

State committee members will continue to meet with all 35 members to reach a consensus in regard to harvesting the kelp. He explains it’s better if the seaweed is harvested manually and not with machines to avoid changing the natural environment where nests already exists and adult turtles would spawn.

“All the data that is collected will provide information to Semarnat to make the necessary recommendations. We have no record on the effects of burying the kelp in dunes with the turtles, and this large amount of saturation could be affecting the hatchlings,” he said.

In some beach areas, the decision to use machinery to remove the seaweed was made. Specific areas of Playa del Carmen and Tulum, for example, have opted to use machines during spawning season.

While there are plans to continue using machines to remove the sargazo, he feels that in contrast, priority should be given to marine life and that the collection of the seaweed should be done manually.

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