Sea turtles make history on the Texas coast!
The nesting season for the endangered Kemp’s ridley is over. A remarkable total of 192 nests were found along the Texas coast compared to 128 in 2007. This is the fifth consecutive year for nesting increases. Nests were found from Boca Chica Beach near the Mexican border to Bolivar Peninsula and beaches in between. The first leatherback nest in 30 years was found as well as a loggerhead nest on the Padre Island National Seashore where 91 of the 192 ridley nests were documented. Three green turtle nests were also found this year. The public is invited to witness the release of Kemp’s ridley hatchlings at the Padre Island National Seashore. Anyone interested can call 361-949-7163 for dates of the public releases.
The Kemp’s ridleys, near extinction in 1985, have been the focus of a 30 year international conservation program with the Republic of Mexico and the United States involved. From 1978 to 1988, eggs from the primary Mexican nesting site were incubated at the Padre Island National Seashore with hatchlings transferred to the National Marine Fisheries Service facility at Galveston. They were raised for almost a year until 1993 and then released. Although Turtle Excluder Devices (TED) to allow sea turtles to escape drowning in shrimp trawls were not mandatory until 1990 in U.S. waters, many of the “head started) turtles survived and are nesting on both U.S. and Mexican beaches.
The state and federal closure prohibiting all shrimping will end July 15 at sundown. The closure allows brown shrimp to reach a more valuable size before harvest. This closure also benefits sea turtles that are at risk because of shrimpers who fish illegally without TEDs or use them improperly. Both state and federal law enforcement including the Coast Guard board shrimp boats to find lawbreakers.
Although nesting turtles may not be found, anyone who sees hatchlings on a Texas beach should immediately call 1-866-TURTLE-5 and protect the hatchlings as they make their way to the water.