João Pontes, coordinator of the Algarve Stranded Network (RAALG), explains that “with the increase in the temperature of the Algarve sea water that normally occurs from the month of April, the turtles travel in to the warmer currents closer to land, becoming vulnerable to the fishing gear of the fishermen, namely gillnets”.
Gillnets consist of a series of panels of meshes with a weighted “foot rope” along the bottom, and a headline, to which floats are attached.
Although the recent phenomenon has been given no single cause, the reason for the death of many turtles is not determined, because there is no obvious evidence. However, “when it is possible to obtain a cause, it is the probable accidental capture”. “The animals are all in good physical condition, with a lot of stomach content which indicates a traumatic death”.
“In some cases the animals even have evidence of contact with human beings, portrayed through the remains of nets and even the absence of some parts of the body due to fishing gear”, explains João Pontes.
In the event of sightings of washed up cetaceans and turtles on the coast, an alert should be made online here, which is automatically forwarded to the members of the responsible team.
After being aware of the occurrence, RAALG goes to the place in question to collect the animals, together with the competent authorities. Then, arries out autopsies for analysis in the laboratory located in Quinta de Marim, in Olhão.
The Algarve Stranded Network comprises a team of biologists from the Centre for Marine Sciences and University of the Algarve that is active full time, to respond to dead cetaceans and sea turtles along the Algarve coastline, working mostly between Odeceixe and Vila Real de Santo António.
Article by JESSICA SOUSA and CRISTINA MENDONÇA
Original article available in Portuguese at http://postal.pt/