The Federal Attorney’s Office for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA), in cooperation with both state and federal authorities, is currently assessing the magnitude of an environmental contingency related to the mortality of marine turtles in the Mexican state of Guerrero.
Following a series of reports filed by turtle protection camps throughout state shores and local civil society regarding the presence of dead marine turtles in an advanced stage of decomposition, PROFEPA convened a meeting with members of the Marine Mammal Strandings Network to collect information on the case.
PROFEPA is coordinating efforts by the Mammal Strandings Network in six different municipalities where the findings of dead chelonians were reported.
After scouting local beaches, state authorities registered 101 dead sea turtles, out of which 14 were olive ridley sea turtles, 86 were Galápagos green turtles, and one was found to be a hawksbill sea turtle.
During their tours, government inspectors found no signs of anthropogenic activities in the turtles’ bodies. However, given their advanced stage of decomposition, specialists were unable to take samples that could help determine their cause of death.
In cooperation with the Ministry of the Navy (SEMAR), the PROFEPA conducted maritime tours with aims of detecting more specimens and collect samples. Nonetheless, they only found remains of Galápagos green turtles in an advanced stage of decomposition.
Several institutions are working to address the environmental contingency, including the Ministry of the Navy (SEMAR), the Autonomous University of Guerrero (UAGRO), the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), the National Commission on Natural Protected Areas (CONANP), the Federal Attorney’s Office for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA), and municipal authorities as part of the Marine Mammal Strandings Network.
The leading hypothesis for their cause of death is the proliferation of microalgae due to the occurrence of red tides, which may cause poisoning upon ingestion, paralyzing the chelonians’ nervous system. Federal authorities have called for the support of Mexico’s Ministry of Health to determine whether red tides have been detected in the region.
Furthermore, support was requested from State Civil Protection to assess the plausibility of cold sea currents that may be affecting state shores.
So far, the dead sea turtles have washed up on the shores of the Cuajinicuilapa, Copala, Acapulco de Juárez, Coyuca de Benitez, Tecpan de Galeana, and Zihuatanejo de Azueta municipalities.
It is worth mentioning that Galápagos green turtles lay eggs in the state of Michoacán and not Guerrero, which is why experts have claimed that the specimens were likely dragged by the current towards the state shores.