COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh – Hundreds of endangered sea turtles have been found dead along Bangladesh's coast in the past two weeks, triggering concerns about pollution and local fishing practices, an official said Thursday.
A team of four scientists has launched an investigation into the deaths of the olive ridley turtles, said Jafar Ahmed, a top official in the government's marine fisheries department.
At least 65 of the sea turtles — ranging from 88 to 132 pounds — have been found dead along a three-mile stretch of beach near Cox's Bazar, one of the main cities on Bangladesh's coast. Hundreds more dead turtles have been found elsewhere in the area, and on a pair of islands. There is no clear total of exactly how many turtles have died.
Olive ridleys, the smallest of all sea turtles, are endangered. They often come ashore at this time of year to lay eggs, Ahmed said.
There have been reports of turtle deaths before, but not as many as this year, he said.
Ahmed would not give any specific reason for the spike in deaths, but said the use of illegal fishing nets near the shoreline has apparently increased recently. The fishermen do not properly release the turtles and often kill them, leaving them to wash ashore, he said.
Other turtles that come to lay eggs on the beaches may be killed by pollution, stray dogs or foxes, or captured by tourists, he said.
Mohammad Aminul Islam, the top administrator for the area, ordered local officials to teach people, from fishermen to tourists, to change their behavior.
"It's really sad that we couldn't protect the turtles," he said. "We are trying to mobilize resources to make a bigger plan to save the sea turtles in the future."