Quantcast

Nearly 200 Sea Turtles Die in Cape Cod Cold Snap

Animals
A cold-stunned sea turtle. NOAA

The record cold snap that froze the northeast Thanksgiving weekend had deadly consequences for sea turtles still swimming in Cape Cod Bay. More than 80 frozen sea turtles were brought into the Massachusetts Audubon Society's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary the day after Thanksgiving, and most did not survive, ABC News reported.


A full 173 turtles have died off of the Massachusetts coast since Wednesday, Mass Audubon Director Bob Prescott told CNN. A total of 227 near-frozen turtles were brought to the sanctuary over the holiday, but only 54 recovered. In total, more than 400 turtles have washed up on Massachusetts beaches since Oct. 22, more than average for the winter stranding season, the Cape Cod Times reported.

"We are at well over 400 cold-stunned turtles (for the year)—82 today, the vast majority of them frozen solid," Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary communications coordinator Jenette Kerr told the Cape Cod Times Thursday. "[Wednesday] we had 87, the vast majority of them alive. Drastic change in the weather overnight."

Indeed, the water in Cape Cod Bay fell from lows in the high 30s Wednesday to lows of around 19 degrees Fahrenheit Thursday, ABC News reported.

The sanctuary has posted photos of its rescue efforts on its Facebook page:

Prescott blamed climate change for the deaths.

"The Gulf of Maine prior to 2010 was too cold for sea turtles to come into," he told CNN.

California Academy of Sciences sea turtle biologist Wallace Nichols agreed.

"Sea turtles are moving further north along our coast, or south to the southern hemisphere, as waters are warming and they are expanding their ranges," Nichols told NBC. "So when we get these quick swings from warm to cooler, the turtles that haven't made it south definitely get into trouble."

Changing climate and the geography of Cape Cod Bay form an especially lethal trap.

"The problem here is that they can't get out of Cape Cod Bay in time," Prescott told NBC. "The shape of the bay just confuses them."

When sea turtles are stuck in rapidly cooling waters, they can fall victim to a potentially lethal condition called "cold stunning," as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explains:

"Sea turtle[s] are cold-blooded reptiles that depend on the temperature of their surroundings to maintain their body temperature. Sea turtles can normally control their body temperatures by moving between areas of water with different temperatures or basking in the sun at the water's surface or on the beach. However, when temperatures rapidly decline and sea turtles are cut off from moving to warmer waters, they can suffer from a form of hypothermia we call cold stunning."

NOAA works with partners to rescue cold stunned turtles along the Massachusetts coast. The number of turtles washing up between October and Christmas has averaged 600 in recent years.

The "cold stunned" sea turtles that washed ashore this week were tropical. The majority were Kemp's ridley turtles, the most endangered species of sea turtle in the world. Green turtles and loggerheads have also numbered among the victims, the Cape Cod Times reported.

While it's been a hard week for sea turtles and their allies, there are still some bright spots. The Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary shared a video Sunday of a Kemp's ridley turtle showing signs of life.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A glacier is seen in the Kenai Mountains on Sept. 6, near Primrose, Alaska. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey have been studying the glaciers in the area since 1966 and their studies show that the warming climate has resulted in sustained glacial mass loss as melting outpaced the accumulation of new snow and ice. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By Mark Mancini

On Aug. 18, Iceland held a funeral for the first glacier lost to climate change. The deceased party was Okjökull, a historic body of ice that covered 14.6 square miles (38 square kilometers) in the Icelandic Highlands at the turn of the 20th century. But its glory days are long gone. In 2014, having dwindled to less than 1/15 its former size, Okjökull lost its status as an official glacier.

Read More Show Less
Members of Chicago Democratic Socialists of America table at the Logan Square Farmers Market on Aug. 18. Alex Schwartz

By Alex Schwartz

Among the many vendors at the Logan Square Farmers Market on Aug. 18 sat three young people peddling neither organic vegetables, gourmet cheese nor handmade crafts. Instead, they offered liberation from capitalism.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
StephanieFrey / iStock / Getty Images

By Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD

Muffins are a popular, sweet treat.

Read More Show Less
Hackney primary school students went to the Town Hall on May 24 in London after school to protest about the climate emergency. Jenny Matthews / In Pictures / Getty Images

By Caroline Hickman

Eco-anxiety is likely to affect more and more people as the climate destabilizes. Already, studies have found that 45 percent of children suffer lasting depression after surviving extreme weather and natural disasters. Some of that emotional turmoil must stem from confusion — why aren't adults doing more to stop climate change?

Read More Show Less
Myrtle warbler. Gillfoto / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Bird watching in the U.S. may be a lot harder than it once was, since bird populations are dropping off in droves, according to a new study.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announces the co-founding of The Climate Pledge at the National Press Club on Sept. 19 in Washington, DC. Paul Morigi / Getty Images for Amazon

The day before over 1,500 Amazon.com employees planned a walkout to participate in today's global climate strike, CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled a sweeping plan for the retail and media giant to be carbon neutral by 2040, 10 years ahead of the Paris agreement schedule.

Read More Show Less

By Winona LaDuke

For the past seven years, the Anishinaabe people have been facing the largest tar sands pipeline project in North America. We still are. In these dying moments of the fossil fuel industry, Water Protectors stand, prepared for yet another battle for the water, wild rice and future of all. We face Enbridge, the largest pipeline company in North America, and the third largest corporation in Canada. We face it unafraid and eyes wide open, for indeed we see the future.

Read More Show Less
The climate crisis often intensifies systems of oppression. Rieko Honma / Stone / Getty Images Plus

By Mara Dolan

We see the effects of the climate crisis all around us in hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, and rising sea levels, but our proximity to these things, and how deeply our lives are changed by them, are not the same for everyone. Frontline groups have been leading the fight for environmental and climate justice for centuries and understand the critical connections between the climate crisis and racial justice, economic justice, migrant justice, and gender justice. Our personal experiences with climate change are shaped by our experiences with race, gender, and class, as the climate crisis often intensifies these systems of oppression.

Read More Show Less