A total of 300 endangered sea turtles were found dead off the southern coast of Mexico on Tuesday, trapped in fishing nets, only a few days after more than 100 dead turtles were recovered in the southern state of Chiapas.
Fishermen in the southern state of Oaxaca discovered the turtles in the seaside community of Barra de Colotepec, said to Reuters Heliodoro Diaz, the coordinator of the state’s civil protection agency.
Images captured by a Reuters videographer showed dozens of dead turtles, many beginning to decompose, caught in what appeared to be a net. The office of the federal attorney for environmental protection (PROFEPA), in coordination with CONAPESCA, determined that the entangled turtles were trapped by riparian fishing nets and not in tuna or shrimp nets, as initially thought.
According to PROFEPA estimations, the presence of these nets in the area can be due to an irresponsible fishing practice or an incident that has forced the fishermen to abandon it.
The olive ridley turtles, which are considered an endangered species, descend on various Mexican states along the Pacific Ocean to lay their eggs. Mexico, which is home to six of the world’s seven species of sea turtles, has a permanent program to protect these animals, including criminal penalties for those who kill them.
Namely, the olive ridley turtle is listed in the Official Mexican Standard NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010 "Environmental Protection-Species native to Mexico of wild flora and fauna-risk categories and specifications for inclusion, exclusion or change list of species at risk".
The Federal Criminal Code establishes a sentence of 1 to 9 years in prison to anyone who unlawfully damages or kills a sea turtle. PROFEPA has initiated an investigation on the incident.
Earlier this month, 113 sea turtles at risk of extinction were also found dead in Mexico - 102 olive ridley turtles, six hawksbill, and five green turtles. This incident is also under investigation.