During a trip across Canada and down the east coast earlier this fall, we discovered a sea turtle organization in Nova Scotia near Halifax and had an informative conversation with a young marine biologist there. It was a surprise to me and apparently until recently, for marine biologists working with the species that large numbers exist this far north. Huge leatherback turtles roam the area and were unknown to scientists until they listened to local fishermen. Jellyfish fuel these giants traveling great distances in the ocean. Most of the work done up north now focuses on education and monitoring leatherback movement.
Strandings of these long distance travelers is known throughout their range but is especially a problem in the Cape Code area they pass through. It seems there is another increasing problem causing strandings beyond the fisherman nets and plastic pollution known now.
Cape Cod appears to act as a trap for sea turtles due to geography and water temperature patterns. Increasing numbers of migrating sea turtles are being found stranded in this area due to "Cold-stunning effects". The long term effects of these large events or flying survivors down to Florida or holding many young turtles in tanks until sea temperatures rise later in the year are hard to predict. Most sea turtle research effort goes into monitoring nesting now. Clearly much more is needed as well as how all of this is being affected by climate change.
Volunteers are waging a rescue effort after finding almost 1,200 turtles washed ashore since mid-November, far more than in the previous record year.