MEXICO CITY (AP) — Environmental groups said Friday that a total of 351 loggerhead sea turtles have been found dead so far this year on the same stretch of Baja California coast where authorities found 137 dead, beached sea lions last week.
The Mexican Center for Environmental Law and the Center for Biological Diversity said the sea turtle deaths showed the need for a ban on net and line fishing in the Gulf of Ulloa area off the Pacific coast.
Mexico’s office for environmental protection said over the weekend that authorities received a report Sept. 4 about beached sea lions and started a search. The bodies were found along an 80-mile (130-kilometer) stretch of coast in the area of Comondu, in Baja California Sur state. The office said the sea lions did not show signs of injuries from getting caught up in fishing nets or lines.
It said tissue samples had been collected from some of the bodies for further analysis, to try to determine why they died. California sea lions are a protected species in Mexico but are not considered in danger of extinction there.
But loggerhead turtles are considered endangered in Mexico and activists said that nets are one of the main causes of sea turtle deaths.
The groups said the area is considered a protected zone for sea turtles and that current regulations allow only 90 sea turtle deaths per year before a temporary ban on commercial long-line and gill net fishing kicks in. However, authorities do not appear to have enforced that rule.
“We are concerned that the deaths of loggerhead turtles is getting worse in the Gulf of Ulloa and that environmental authorities have still not enforced the applicable regulations,"said Mario Sánchez of the center for environmental law.
The deaths appear to be a continuing problem and one that is getting worse. The groups said that 331 loggerheads were found dead in the area in 2019 and 459 in 2018.