RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/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.
The turtles from Flanders Bay have washed ashore since late April, Newsday reported.
Karen Testa, founder of Turtle Rescue of the Hamptons, said the majority have been found in Riverhead. The ban affects 4,000 acres off Riverhead, Southold and Southampton.
Testa said the turtles have been sent to Cornell University for testing. The state has collected seven for necropsies.
State officials said 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.
"The diamondback eat shellfish and they get the paralytic shellfish poisoning. They perish at that point because they can no longer swim," Testa told 1010 WINS.
But experts say there are elevated levels of saxitoxin every year that don't cause die-offs.
Testa is hoping the deaths are natural.
"If it's something Mother Nature did, she's the boss so we can all accept that, but when mankind gets involved and ruins habitats for these animals that have been here before we have, it just makes you feel horrible," she said.
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