FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 24, 2019
Press Contact: Joanie Steinhaus
Gulf Program Director
GALVESTON—The number of sea turtle strandings along the Texas coastline reached the highest number ever recorded in one month during April and May, the height of sea turtle nesting season.
A total of 159 stranded sea turtles were recorded in April—the highest number of strandings in one month since monitoring began in 1980. Strandings are continuing at a rapid pace, and the latest data shows 186 turtles stranded in Texas through May 21. Most of the turtles were dead when found.
Among those found were 68 dead Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, the Texas state sea turtle and 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.
While further analysis is needed to determine the cause of the high number of sea turtle strandings, local sea turtle conservation nonprofit Turtle Island Restoration Network is concerned sea turtles are interacting with illegal fishing vessels in the area.
“We know turtles are drowning in illegal longline and gillnet fishing operations along the United States-Mexico border in southern Texas,” said Turtle Island Restoration Network Gulf Program Director Joanie Steinhaus. “We need government agencies on both sides of the border to make this a priority. The reasons for stranding may be different in other areas like along the upper Texas coast, but the numbers are still alarming.”
A stranded sea turtle is one that is found on land or in the water that is dead, injured, or exhibits any indication of ill health or abnormal behavior. It is often difficult to determine why a turtle strands, but turtles that have interacted with fishing vessels have been found with gill net wrapped around their flippers.
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.
“Better law enforcement by both state and federal agencies is only part of the answer,” said Steinhaus. “Another simple step that would save thousands of ridleys would be closing shrimping in state waters during the nesting season.”
Turtle Island Restoration Network will continue to report any injured or deceased wildlife to coordinating agencies for investigation, and asks that community members keep a lookout.
To report injured or stranded animals on the Texas coast, please contact the following agencies:
- Injured or stranded sea turtles: 866- TURTLE- 5
- Deceased fish and bird: 512-389-4848
- Stranded marine mammals: 1-800-962-6625
For more than 10 years Turtle Island Restoration Network has sponsored the 1-866-TURTLE-5 sea turtle hotline for the Texas coast, and have continued to work to raise awareness of the need to report any nesting, injured or deceased sea turtle to the hotline along the entire Texas coast.
Turtle Island Restoration Network is a leading advocate for the world’s oceans and marine wildlife. Our work is based on science, fueled by people who care, and effective at catalyzing long-lasting positive change that protects the likes of sea turtles, sharks and salmon. Join our network to help us protect all marine species and the blue-green planet they call home at www.seaturtles.org.