Pollution from sewers and farms could be the cause for tumors in green sea turtles worldwide, a new study says.
These green sea turtles may get the dormant herpes virus if they consume seaweed that is grown from Nitrogen-rich runoff from sewers and farms. The Herpes tumor that affects the turtle's eyes, mouth, joints and internal organs also affects its reproduction. Green sea turtles are already listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
In some parts of Hawaii, where green sea turtle stranding’s occur regularly, as many as 90 percent of stranded dead or dying turtles discovered have been afflicted with the disease, according to study leader Kyle Van Houtan, an ecologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center in Honolulu.
"Wherever the turtle strandings occur, there is often evidence of sewage and invasive algae, Van Houtan said.
Van Houtan and his team studied nearly three decades of data on green sea turtle strandings on the Hawaiian Islands and also calculated the nitrogen footprint because of human activities. The turtle-tumor research has been published in the journal PLoS ONE.
These turtle-tumor hot spots are "the places that I wouldn't necessarily want to go surfing after a rain … because of the nasty stuff that would show up" in the ocean, Van Houtan added.