On April 27, a Kemp's ridley sea turtle visited West Galveston Island to dig a nest and lay 103 eggs. Word about this historic visit spread quickly after volunteer patrolers Phil and Kathleen Roth sighted her. She was a head started turtle having been raised for one year at the NOAA sea turtle facility in Galveston before her release in 1989. She returned to the Island to lay eggs in 2006, 2008, and 2010. This fourth nest establishes Missy as a genuine miracle mother! The Turtle Excluder Device (TED) regulations were new and barely in use when she was released, but somehow she survived shrimp boats without this escape mechanism installed on their trawls.
Missy has returned to nest on beaches where there is no "safe zone" forcing shrimp boats to stay five nautical miles away from the beaches. Unfortunately, some shrimp boats still don't use TEDs or use them properly. At the urging of the Sea Turtle Restoration Project in 2000, Texas Parks and Wildlife initiated this safe zone ruling in South Texas for eight months of the year. This rule has saved hundreds maybe thousands of nesters in South Texas waters. Upper Texas Coast waters should have the same restrictions and both areas should be for 12 months of the year.
Speaking of Missy, Dr. Joe Flanagan, Senior Veterinarian of the Houston Zoo, said "She is a very pretty head start. And she sure loves Galveston's beaches." He predicts she will return to nest again in two to four weeks. The return trip will be perilous since five dead or injured Kemp's ridleys were found on beaches in the Galveston area between April 29 and May 5, 2012. Shrimp boats are allowed to fish close to shore in shallow waters where sea turtles swim.
Missy is doing her best to build a nesting population in the Galveston area although her eggs are moved to the Padre Island National Seashore for incubation and release of hatchlings. How many more trips will she be able to make to Galveston to point out that although the sand isn't snow white, it's good enough for her. And other nesters too.
This Mother's Day, let's listen to Missy's message!