Three porpoises have stranded on the island in the quarter before June 2002. That brings the marine mammal stranding count for the year to five. All were bottle-nosed dolphins.
2002 was the worst year since 1980 for sea turtle strandings. As of 15 September, there were 98 dead turtles on the island, 73 in the April-June quarter. Of those, 37 came ashore in May, making it the highest count for May since 1979 when we had 57. The total for April (13) was the second highest since 1979 (there were 34 in 1991.) Most of the 98 strandings took place prior to August 1. The total for the state (Georgia) as of 27 June was 202.
Whether the slaughter slows or continues its fast pace remains to be seen, but this year looks as if it may be another unfortunate one for the turtles. The shrimp harvest is predicted to be good this season, much better than the last couple of years. More shrimping effort equals higher turtle mortality so the season definitely looks grim for the turtles.
Reclassification of Loggerheads a Possibility
At this time, the National Marine Fisheries Service is reviewing the possibility of reclassifying the loggerhead sub-population in this area (the “northern sub-population”) and the one in the Florida panhandle. Both are now listed as threatened, a status which could be changed to endangered. Under the Endangered Species Act, critical habitat would also be designated which might offer some relief from commercial fishing activities, perhaps even in this area since mortality is so high in the vicinity of Cumberland Island. Cumberland, with less than 20% of the Georgia coastline, receives about half of the strandings reported for the state. For more information on the possible reclassification contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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