When it comes to catching and caring for sea turtles, it’s a bit like picking up a few extra pounds.
A few weeks before your next vacation, a marine biologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham says the odds are against you.
It is a bit of a cliché, but the odds of you catching one are still extremely high, he said.
The biggest risk is to get one that is not native to the area, like a turtle from the Caribbean or from an island.
“If you go out to sea and don’t know what you are looking at, you’re probably going to be in the dark,” said Mark A. Linskey, professor of marine biology and aquatic science.
“I don’t think we are able to predict the number of turtles that are going to end up in the wild in this country because the population is so large.”
The good news is that, thanks to advances in technology and conservation efforts, the numbers of turtles in the Gulf of Mexico are declining.
They have decreased by more than 70 percent in the last 30 years.
“Turtles are a lot more difficult to catch than they were 30 years ago,” Linskeys said.
That means, he added, that the odds for a sea turtles encounter in the U.S. are lower than they used to be.
That said, a small group of marine biologists are still optimistic that, in the coming years, they can catch more sea turtles than they have in the past.
“The problem is, we haven’t caught as many turtles,” Lingskey said.
“We’ve probably got a few more than we need.
But we are hoping.”
Linsking said that, as the sea turtle population is dwindling, so too are the numbers in the sea.
The population of sea turtles has declined to about a third of what it was in the 1960s, he pointed out.
That decline has created a new environment for predators and prey that have adapted to the changes in sea life, Linskinys said.
It’s the “new normal” for predators, he noted.
“It’s very different from, say, a bull shark.
They are not as well adapted to our new environment, and they are getting attacked more.”
Lincksy noted that, over the years, scientists have also found the turtles to be a “very important source of information” about the ocean’s ecosystem.
Linksy said that the marine biologist who lives on a Caribbean island in the Atlantic Ocean has spent his entire career studying the ocean. “
What they are doing is changing.”
Linksy said that the marine biologist who lives on a Caribbean island in the Atlantic Ocean has spent his entire career studying the ocean.
But his current work focuses on the marine turtles that live in the Caribbean.
“That is a big area of study,” he noted, “because turtles are really the only animals that we know how to study.”
Lintsky is working with a group of biologists who work with the Gulf Stream, which runs through the Caribbean Sea.
The researchers are trying to figure out what the changing conditions are doing to the Gulf stream and how the changing environment might affect its flow.
“At some point, it will stop,” Lintksy said.
If that happens, “it will affect all of us.”
A more accurate forecast of the number and species of sea turtle that will be found in the ocean is a matter of “when,” not if, he warned.
“There is a lot of uncertainty.
If the population stays at a very high level for 30 years, we may not even have a chance to catch any turtles,” he added.
The Gulf Stream runs from Florida to the coast of North America.
Lintkys said that he doesn’t know if he has a good estimate on the number or species of turtles the Gulf has in the current year, but that the research team is working to figure that out.
A number of scientists have been trying to find a better estimate of how many sea turtles will be in captivity in the future.
In the meantime, the UAB professor says he and his colleagues will continue to track the sea turtles in a very active way.
“All the information we are getting is coming from sea turtles that we catch,” he explained.
“Every year, we are going out to the ocean and we’re trying to capture a sea otter or a mussel or a bluegill, and the sea otters are not going to eat those things, so we’re finding out what’s in the fish they are eating.”
And, he notes, “if you are in the right place at the right time, you can catch a sea bird or a dolphin.”
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