MOBILE, Ala. -- In the first two weeks of May, there were 156 dead sea turtles recovered along the coasts of Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana, national wildlife officials said Tuesday.
"The stranding rate is significantly higher than the background rate that we have detected in the past," said Dr. Steve Murawski, Director of Scientific Programs and chief science advisor for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.
So far, no link has been confirmed between the dead turtles and the oil spill, officials said. Autopsies are being performed on the turtles, Murawski said, where deep tissue will be tested and analyzed.
There have been no visible signs of oil when sea turtles have been discovered, officials said.
The statistics on sea turtles were presented during a teleconference Tuesday with national wildlife experts who discussed how marine mammals and other wildlife may be affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
"We are vitally interested in the fate of wildlife populations," Murawski said, noting that NOAA "continues to be concerned about oil and dispersants on the short and long-term fishery population and marine mammals."
He said a robust monitoring program is in place to determine the species at risk and track the movements of oil and dispersants.
Rowan Gould, acting director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, said Tuesday that multiple state agencies are documenting impacts and working to understand the long-term effects of the spill.
"I want to make no mistake about it, Gould said. "This spill is significant. We've recovered a relatively small number of visibly oil birds in this spill. The visibly oiled birds are only a small part of the concern. What concerns us most is what we can't see -- the probable effects of the spill on the coastal environment."
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