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300 Sea Turtles Found Dead on Indian Beach

As many as 300 olive ridley sea turtles and a bottlenose dolphin were found dead on Puri Beach in Odisha, India on Wednesday. While the exact cause of this horrific mass death is currently unclear, according to reports, the turtles might have been killed after being hit by trawlers who were operating illegally in the sea.


It's not unusual for turtles to wash up dead on Puri beach during winter, but this is the first time so many turtles have perished, The Times of India reported.

According to the report, forest and marine fisheries authorities seized two trawlers for carrying out unauthorized fishing despite a ban that prohibits trawling between November and May.

"This is unfortunate that a large number of olive ridley turtles died on the beach. It seemed they were hit by trawlers," Puri Collector Arabind Agarwal said.

The turtles, named after their olive-colored shell, are listed as "vulnerable" by the World Wildlife Fund because "they nest in a very small number of places, and therefore, any disturbance to even one nest beach could have huge repercussions on the entire population."

Jagannath Bastia, president of the volunteer organization Beach Protection Council of Odisha, told The Times of India that "trawlers continued to carry out illegal fishing during the ban period due to poor patrolling by marine police and forest authorities."

Renowned sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik created sand sculptures of turtles and sculpted the message "Give Us Space To Live" on the beach to bring attention to the incident.

"I felt sad to see these turtles and never saw such a huge number of dead turtles on Puri beach," Pattnaik said. "I appeal to the government through my sand sculpture to find out the cause of death of turtles and take measures for their protection."

It's clear from this story that humans can have a profoundly negative impact on ocean life. Earlier this month, an adult female orca named Lulu was found dead on the Scottish island of Tiree with deep lesions on her body. After a necropsy was performed, experts with the Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme concluded that Lulu had been “chronically entangled" in abandoned fishing gear for several days and likely drowned from entanglement.

Plastic pollution is another devastating culprit. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation warned in a report published Tuesday that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. Besides turtles, plastic litter harms the entire ocean chain, from whales, to fish and even plankton as larger pieces of plastic break down into microscopic pieces.

Last December, a team of researchers came across an olive ridley sea turtle with a 5-inch plastic fork lodged deeply in its nostril on a beach in Costa Rica. Luckily, the turtle was saved.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.