Thailand: Oil not to blame for turtle deaths, autopsy results show

Bangkok Post 25 Aug 13;

RAYONG : An initial autopsy on dead sea turtles found in the sea off Rayong has found their deaths have nothing to do with the oil leak disaster last month, the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) says.

A male turtle was found dead earlier this month while a female was found dead on Ban Phe beach on Thursday. Both were green turtles.

Villagers suspected the turtles died from pollution caused by the PTT Global Chemical oil spill on July 27.

However, the DMCR autopsies found the creatures' deaths were not linked to poisoning from the oil slick.

The autopsy on the male turtle found garbage inside its intestine, leading the marine biologists to believe it died from digestive problems caused by consuming rubbish in the sea.

The vets had also sent the male turtle's tissues to test for levels of cadmium, mercury, arsenic, and lead. The results are expected next month, Wasin Chaadwimon, a veterinarian from the DMCR's Eastern Marine and Coastal Resources Research Centre said.

The vet team yesterday conducted an autopsy on the female turtle, aged around 20 years and weighing about 34 kilogrammes.

"We found a lot of water inside its abdomen, which means it died from drowning, Dr Wasin said, adding he believed the turtle was trapped in a fishing net and could not swim to the surface for air. Veterinarians found a black substance inside its body, but could not confirm whether it was crude oil.

Dr Wasin said the vets could not collect the turtle's tissue for laboratory testing because the animal's carcass was too badly decomposed.

The department said about 10 sea turtles are found dead each month in Rayong, Chantaburi and Trat provinces, with half of the dead turtles dying after getting trapped in fishing nets and 30% from eating garbage.

Meanwhile, Renu Vejaratpimol, a biologist from Silpakorn University's Faculty of Science, yesterday conducted DNA tests of fish in areas affected by the oil slick.

Initial tests found some fish with broken DNA while others had a black stain in their lungs. Ms Renu said toxic chemicals can cause broken DNA in marine animals, but it could not be concluded the irregularities were caused by the spill.