Unfortunately we found this Green Sea Turtle swimming around with Fibropapillomatosis on our dive site ‘The Bridge’.
As you can see the sea turtle has a disturbing amount of tumors around its body. The animal can live with this for many years but also can die due to the load of the tumors and if large, the tumors can mechanically hamper sight, swallowing, and swimming, which may ultimately be fatal. Sometimes the tumors can regress and be cured, which has been documented in some individuals, even when tumors were severe. However, the responses that cause these tumor regressions is unknown. Besides, often the sea turtles with Fibropapillomatosis (FP) might die before recovery can happen.
The FP is an infectious disease, an alphaherpesvirus is believed to be the causative agent of the disease, though no real proof of its causality exists. The disease exists globally, suggesting a multi factorial cause, rather than single factors or agents. Possible factors include some parasites, bacteria, environmental pollutants, UV-light, changing water temperatures and biotoxins. Even physiological factors such as stress and immunologic status appear to be associated with FP.
The last years we noticed a strong reduction of our water quality which could play a certain roll in this sea turtle disease. Scientific research found a link between excess nitrogen (sewage) which accumulates in algae that sea turtles eat. This could causes the Fibropapilliomatosis in sea turtles and its expression of the tumors, this disease is the leading cause of deaths in endangered green sea turtles.