Scientists at the Virginia Institute off Marine Science in Gloucester Point are once again asking the public for help tracking sea turtles along Virginia shores.

"Last year, the response from the public was terrific, with over 100 turtle sightings and strandings reported," said Jack Musick, the scientist who heads the project. "These helped us gather data on their life history and population dynamics in the Virginia coastal area."

Among the information being sought by the scientists is the size, weight, sex and species of each turtle. If an injured or dead turtle is found, project members ask that the public try to determine the cause.

Persons who find dead or injured turtles should not try to move them, Musick said. "All sea turtles (leather backs, ridleys, loggerheads) are classified as endangered species," he said, "and are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. It is against the law for anyone to touch or remove a beached turtle, its skull, fins, etcetera, unless they have been issued a special federal or state permit."

Anyone sighting dead or stranded turtles should contact Musick or Mollie Lutcavage, a graduate student aiding in the project, at VIMS, Gloucester Point, Va. 23062. Sightings also may be reported by calling VIMS at (804)641-2111 or (804)642-2311.