TORTOLA — A female Green sea turtle died as a result of injuries sustained when a speed boat cut a 17-inch gash in its shell.
The turtle was 32 inches long and 29 inches wide. Officials said it was difficult to ascertain its weight after it took on so much water from the injury. Normally Green turtles, which is on list of endangered species, can weigh between 150 to 400 pounds
“We found a sad little turtle that was struck by a boat really,” Shannon Gore, principal consultant of Coastal Management Consulting and the Association of Reef Keepers told The Daily News. “When we got there, it was already dead, upside down, floating on its back. Turning it over, we found a 17-inch gash along the lower end of its carcass. It was clearly from a propeller and it was deep enough that it probably tore apart its lungs and other internal organs.”
A concerned citizen alerted officials Tuesday evening that a turtle had suffered a lengthy gash towards its tail end and had drifted into the Thomas Land area of Tortola’s eastern end.
By time officials arrived Wednesday morning, the turtle was found on its back against shoreline rocks, with waves pushing it more than 200 feet from where it was originally spotted on Tuesday.
The Green turtle, one of the largest sea turtles and the only one among the different species to feed on plants, measured 32 inches long by 29 inches wide, according to Gore, who said the occurrence of boats running over turtles when they surface to breathe is more common than boaters think.
“They often don’t know about it until the turtle gets stranded at the shore or someone sees it, but we’ve had a number of boat strikes,” she said. “And we have found turtles dead.”
Gore said she wants residents to contact her association or her directly “if they see something, even if it’s a dead turtle, let us know, because we can get the information from then and to see if they are tagged.”
Gore said had she been alerted when the turtle was initially spotted, there may have been time to save it.
“If somebody was to call right away and we were able to get out there to see if it was still alive, we would have tried to save it,” she said.
According to Gore, officials found another turtle with a boat strike among six others that had the highly infected Fibropapillomatosis — a tumor-causing disease that mainly affects green sea turtles.
“We have seen six this year but five that are in the water and still have the disease,” she said. “They were really small tumors so we’re going to monitor those. If it gets too big or their eyes get covered with it, then we’ll take them to surgery.”