Officials work to find cause of turtle die-off



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RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (AP) — A rare die-off of about 100 diamondback turtles has led New York to temporarily ban harvesting of shellfish and gastropods in portions of Long Island.

Newsday reports (http://nwsdy.li/1ETPKui ) the turtles from Flanders Bay have washed ashore since late April. Karen Testa, founder of Turtle Rescue of the Hamptons, says the majority have been found in Riverhead. The ban affects 4,000 acres off Riverhead, Southold and Southampton.

Testa says the turtles have been sent to Cornell University for testing. The state has collected seven for necropsies.

State officials say early tests are inconclusive, but point to saxitoxin as a potential cause. It's a marine biotoxin produced by algae and eaten by shellfish that can paralyze turtles.

But experts say there are elevated levels of saxitoxin every year that don't cause die-offs.

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Information from: Newsday, http://www.newsday.com

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The Associated Press

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