Nearly 200 Sea Turtles Die in Cape Cod Cold Snap
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.
#HappyThanksgiving We are thankful for @NatlAquarium @OrlandoSea @MarineLifeCtr @NCAquariumatPKS @NCAquarium_RI… https://t.co/WlRSrSSTW1— NOAA Fisheries NE/MA (@NOAA Fisheries NE/MA)1542898800.0
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.
In a dramatic rescue captured on camera, a Florida man ran into a pond and pried open an alligator's mouth in order to rescue his beloved puppy, all without dropping his cigar.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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