The cause of death of a sea turtle that stranded at Bradshaw's Beach in Point Beach is not clear, said an official at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine.
Commercial "long line," used in "long line fishing" was wrapped around its neck and left flippers, but it's not known if that caused the death or if the line became wrapped around the turtle after it was already compromised or dead, said Jay Pagel, senior field technician with the center in Brigantine, on Tuesday.
"It was badly decomposed, so it was hard to tell," Pagel said. "It had been dead at least a week."
Pagel said another technician had done the necropsy (autopsy done on animals) in Point Pleasant Beach on Sunday after the animal had been found that morning. The other technician has not been available for an interview since the turtle was found and the necropsy notes are not complete, Pagel said.
Pagel said regardless of whether fishing line caused this particular death, lines dumped into the water have commonly caused injury and death to marine mammals.
"We recommend that people dispose of the fishing lines properly, not in the water," Pagel said. He said there are receptacles for used fishing line in many fishing locations, bait shops, parks and fishing clubs. Placing the lines in the receptacles keeps them away from marine mammals and they get recycled, he said.
The turtle in Point Beach was one of four that stranded in the Jersey Shore region on Sunday. Others were in Atlantic City, Sea Isle City and Sandy Hook, Pagel said.
Pagel said there did not appear to be a common link among the four, other than the two found in Sea Isle and Sandy Hook were also badly decomposed. The number of turtle strandings this summer is about average, or perhaps slightly higher, than most summers, he added.
"That may have something to do with the water getting warmer a little earlier this year," he said.
Pagel noted that on Sunday the wind was northeasterly, before shifting to a southerly wind in the evening.
"Whenever the wind is out of the east, we get things washing up," he noted.
Jerry Meaney, an official with the Point Pleasant Emergency and First Aid Squad and also a volunteer for the Stranding Center, said he and several other local residents, who also volunteer for both groups, went to the stranding scene Sunday just to make sure no spectators got too close while they waited for the stranding center staff to arrive.
He said a few of the volunteers moved the turtle, which appeared to be between 75 and 100 pounds, to the public works facility on Cooks Lane where the stranding center staff performed the necropsy.