About 80 diamondback terrapins were found dead on a beach at 11th Street in Sea Isle City on Memorial Day, according to the Sea Isle City Beach Patrol.
Chief Renny Steele said the beach patrol received a call from an unidentified woman Monday morning about the turtles.
Steele said members of the beach patrol arrived 11:30 a.m. and found groups of turtles scattered within a block on the beach.
He said a commercial crab trap also was found on the beach.
“I’ve never seen that many turtles dead in one small spot like that,” Steele said.
The beach patrol notified the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor and other groups.
Brian Williamson, research scientist for The Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor, said Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRDs), sometimes called Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs), are required in NJ only in waters 150 ft wide or less at mean low tide, as well as all man-made lagoons and that they are required on both commercial and recreational crab pots.
"However, terrapins are frequently found in larger water bodies as well, including Delaware Bay and the wide but often shallow sounds in South Jersey’s salt marshes," Williamson said.
BRDs are not required in these locations, and terrapins are often captured in traps set in these waters.
"Therefore, it is possible that the trap found in Sea Isle City was in compliance with current BRD regulations in NJ as it is impossible to know where it was originally set-it is very possible a trap in waters where BRDs are not required could capture many terrapins," he said.
Whether the trap was illegal or not, Williamson said its a lesson to learn.
"The loss of 80 terrapins in a single pot is significant, and the loss of that many adult turtles at one location could have negative effects on local terrapin populations. Second, the discovery of this trap gives us a window into the large numbers of turtles that can be incidentally captured in a single crab trap when not equipped with BRDs. Finally, this situation underscores the importance of responsible crabbing practices for reducing impacts to our terrapin population," Williamson said.
Williamson said crabbers should frequently check their crab pots and to use BRDs even when not legally required to reduce the number of terrapins killed in crab pots.