Three dead Leatherback Sea Turtles washed ashore in Massachusetts last weekend, Tony LaCasse, spokesperson for the New England Aquarium said. Two of the turtles were decomposed and appeared to have been dead for some time, while the third apparently drowned recently, LaCasse said.
The drowned turtle, which weighed 675 pounds, was discovered in Provincetown on Saturday morning, said Mark Faherty, science coordinator for the Massachusetts Audubon Society at Wellfleet Bay. Faherty said the animal had likely become trapped underwater in a fishing net and unable to breath.
The other two animals, found Sunday in Mattapoisett and Westport, had washed ashore in the heavy surf from tropical storm Hanna, said LaCasse, who said he received most of his information from the Audubon Society at Wellfleet Bay.
This summer has been exceptional for the number of Leatherback Sea Turtles -- the largest turtles in the world -- spotted in the Cape Cod area, LaCasse said. The animals are endangered and feed solely on sea jellies. With the summer's warmer waters came more sea jellies and their predators, LaCasse said.
There have been an unusually high number of Leatherback Sea Turtle fatalities as well, with numbers reaching the early to mid teens, he said. Boats have been partially responsible, with 7 or 8 of the dead Leatherbacks from earlier this summer suffering from trauma to their shells, LaCasse said. Coast guard officials have posted warnings to boaters to be on the lookout for the animals, which have dark shells and can be hard to see, he said.
However, the turtles are expected to migrate south this month. Those who spotted them during the summer season were treated to a "once in a lifetime" experience, LaCasse said.
"They're really just so unusual," he said. "The public is just fascinated with them."