BROWNSVILLE - The sudden decline of Texas' official sea turtle was unexpected and may indicate pollution is making the Gulf of Mexico a difficult place for species like the Kemp's ridley to survive, experts said Wednesday.


"The Kemp's ridley turtle might be a great canary in the coal mine for the Gulf of Mexico," said Thane Wibbels, speaking at the Second International Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Symposium.


Wibbels, a biologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is among 15 to 20 scientists and federal officials who plan to meet Thursday to digest information from the two-day symposium and decide what to do about the unexpected decline in the Kemp's ridley, the world's most endangered sea turtle, after more than a decade of steady gains.


Scientific research presented on the Kemp's ridley raised the possibility that the 2010 BP oil spill, the largest in U.S. history, might have contributed to the declines of sea turtle nests in 2013 and 2014, which have alarmed scientists.


A study released Tuesday found oil in the carapace, or shell, of 29 sea turtles that returned to feed in the spill area in 2011 and 2012. And while experts say the only way to say with certainty that the oil came from the spill would have been to test the turtles' blood right after they came in contact with the oil, the finding provides evidence that the spill dealt a major blow to turtle recovery efforts.


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