Photo by Sheryl Holden
Photo by Sheryl Holden

Dead Kemp’s Ridleys Washing Up on Texas Beaches

For Immediate Release

CONTACT:
Joanna Nasar
Communications Director
Turtle Island Restoration Network
Cell: (415) 488-7711
Joanna@SeaTurtles.Org

Joanie Steinhaus
Director, Gulf Coast
Turtle Island Restoration Network
Sea Turtle Restoration Project
2228 Broadway, Galveston, TX 77550
Office: (409) 795-8426
Joanie@SeaTurtles.Org

Dead Kemp’s Ridleys Washing Up on Texas Beaches

Galveston, Texas (April 20, 2016) – Volunteers with Turtle Island Restoration Network (seaturtles.org) patrolling the Upper Texas Coast for nesting sea turtles have been shocked to find dead sea turtles on the beach. The volunteers have found five dead endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles on their routes in Galveston and Surfside. The dead sea turtles bolster ongoing calls for increased actions to limit shrimp trawling and for the building of a sea turtle rehab hospital on the Upper Texas coast.

“We are saddened to be finding dead sea turtles this time of year when we should be seeing live nesting sea turtles,” said Joanie Steinhaus, Gulf Office Director for the Turtle Island Restoration Network located in Galveston. “These turtles are nicknamed the ‘heartbreak’ turtles and it is truly heartbreaking to see these turtles so clearly in need of our protection dead on our beaches.”

The Associated Press has reported at least 48 Kemp’s ridley strandings on Gulf beaches this year. This year the total number of dead Kemp’s ridley sea turtles found on the Upper Texas Coast is 35, with 12 of those sea turtles found in the last month alone.

The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is the world’s most endangered sea turtle with a nesting population of between 7,000 and 9,000 female turtles. The death of even one Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is of grave concern and three of the turtles found in south Texas were confirmed to be females. The loss of even one nesting female has an impact on the recovery of this species. These turtles, which are the smallest of all seven species of sea turtles, had been making a gradual recovery. However, the devastating effects of the 2010 BP oil spill drastically impacted the turtles’ recovery.

While further analysis is needed to determine the cause of the high number of sea turtle strandings, Turtle Island Restoration Network is concerned that shrimp trawling may be further complicating the Kemp’s ridley’s recovery efforts. Shrimp trawling is one of the primary threats to sea turtle survival in the United States including the Gulf of Mexico. Every year, the shrimp trawl fishery captures and kills thousands of sea turtles, including the critically endangered Kemp’s ridley. Migration of the Kemp’s ridleys in the shallow waters of the Gulf coast coincides each year with shrimp fishing. Although law enforcement efforts are present, many more inspections must be done to find those shrimpers who are not using Turtle Excluder Devices (TED) or who are using them improperly.

“We need more law enforcement by both state and federal agencies,” added Steinhaus. “Another simple step that would save thousands of ridleys would be closing shrimping in state waters during the nesting season.”

Currently if a beachgoer finds a stranded or injured sea turtle on the Upper Texas Coast there is no permanent sea turtle rehab facility or hospital to call for assistance. In other coastal communities, such as Florida, sea turtle hospitals provide a lifeline for sea turtles harmed by shrimping, red tides, plastic pollution, oil spills and other factors. Turtle Island Restoration Network is working to get one such hospital on the Upper Texas Coast. Those interested in learning more or helping can do so by emailing joanie@seaturtles.org.

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Turtle Island Restoration Network works to mobilize people and communities around the world to protect marine wildlife, the oceans and the inland waterways that sustain them. Join us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. SeaTurtles.Org