Featured Image Credit: Sea Isle City Beach Patrol
By: Sarah Sharkey
80 turtles were found dead in Sea Isle City, New Jersey on Memorial Day. The sight was not pretty for the beachgoers who wanted to enjoy their day off at the beach. The turtles were all diamondback terrapins.
Chief Renny Steel said that beach patrol responded to the call around 11:30 AM and found the turtles scattered everywhere. He said, “I’ve never seen that many turtles dead in one small spot like that.”
There was a crab trap on the beach as well.
The beach patrol unit contacted the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor for assistance. A research scientist at the Wetlands Institute, Brain Williamson, said that these turtles are sometimes taken as bycatch. So Bycatch Reduction Devices (also called Turtle Excluder Devices) are required in New Jersey waters that are 150 feet wide or less at low tide and man-made lagoons that have crab traps.
He also said, “However, terrapins are frequently found in larger water bodies as well, including Delaware Bay and the wide but often shallow sounds in South Jersey’s salt marshes. Therefore, it is possible that the trap found in Sea Isle City was in compliance with current BRD regulations in NJ as it is impossible to know where it was originally set-it is very possible a trap in waters where BRDs are not required could capture many terrapins”
Whether it was legal or not remains in question, but either way, the damage of 80 dead turtles in one small crab pot shows that the Bycatch Reduction Devices are very necessary in this area.
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