Floating barstool becomes deathtrap for world’s rarest sea turtle

Floating barstool becomes deathtrap for world’s rarest sea turtle

Outdoors

Floating barstool becomes deathtrap for world’s rarest sea turtle

The discovery this week of a critically endangered sea turtle cramped inside a floating barstool off Florida is a grim reminder that items left on beaches or discarded at sea can become cruel deathtraps for marine life.

Kemp’s ridley sea turtle that had become trapped in a barstool. Photos: South Walton Turtle Watch

Photos of the dead Kemp’s ridley turtle, found off Florida’s Gulf Coast, were shared to Facebook Tuesday by the nonprofit group South Walton Sea Watch. The description reads, in part:

“This is so very sad, and so easy to stop. Please do not leave your items, anything, on the beach. We did get this beautiful lady out of the chair.

“She was a critically endangered Kemp’s and of course she was dead. Look at her head to see what she went through. Poor thing it must have been an awful death.”

The discovery is a reminder that discarded beach or boat items can become death traps. Photo: South Walton Turtle Watch

The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, found primarily in the Gulf of Mexico, is the world’s rarest sea turtle. Its plight is largely due to over-harvesting of eggs in previous decades.

However, threats to recovery also include incidental catches by fishermen, and marine pollution.

The floating barstool was discovered Monday near Dune Allen Beach.

Sharon Maxwell of South Walton Turtle Watch told the Northwest Florida Daily News that the barstool had been floating close to shore. Maxwell guessed that it either washed into the gulf or fell off a boat.

Beachgoers retrieved the stool, saw a turtle carcass inside, and telephoned South Walton Turtle Watch, which notified the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

“Normally they would perform a necropsy [to determine how the turtle died], but she was too far gone,” Maxwell said. “It’s really sad. There’s no way we can tell how or when she died. We hate it.”

The FWC states on its website that fewer than 1,000 nesting Kemp’s ridley sea turtles remain in the world.

According to the Florida Sun-Sentinel, a Kemp’s ridley carcass was discovered last month tangled in a chord attached to a beach chair that had become submerged off Alabama.

An extreme red tide in recent months has been blamed for the deaths of several turtles off Florida, including at least one Kemp’s ridley.

Kemp’s ridleys are small, measuring less than three feet and weighing to about 80 pounds. They prey largely on crabs and other crustaceans.

–Images are courtesy of South Walton Turtle Watch

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