Over 250 attended the first Sea Turtle Saturday in Galveston, Texas, on April 9!

At least 250 sea turtle fans gathered at Galveston’s first Sea Turtle Saturday, April 9, and spoke up for a marine reserve in state waters at the Padre Island National Seashore, support for the sea turtle program at the NOAA facility in Galveston and against longline fishing which is killing millions of sea birds, marine mammals, fish and leatherback sea turtles in the world’s oceans.

Texas A&M University at Galveston was the site of presentations by sea turtle experts and the showing of a video entitled “Last Journey for the Leatherback?” In the afternoon, NOAA Fisheries staff held two sessions of training for those who live on the beach or are interested in patrolling for nesting sea turtles and hatchlings.

One presentation was given by Dr. Donna Shaver of the National Park Service at the Padre Island National Seashore who was introduced by the Seashore’s superintendent Colin Campbell. Dr. Shaver is in charge of the Kemp’s ridley recovery program at the Seashore. She spoke of the positive effect of the Texas Closure which prevents shrimping for seven months in a five nautical mile area from the Corpus Christi Fish Pass to the Mexican border. Fewer strandings in that area and an increase of Kemp’s ridley nesters on the Texas coast are seen as an indication that the closure which also benefits fish and shrimp populations should continue.

“Conservationists are sending a clear message to the state of Texas that the closure to shrimping in South Texas waters should be year around and that it is time for a marine reserve in state waters (nine nautical miles) adjacent to the Padre Island National Seashore,” said Carole Allen, Director of the Gulf Office of Sea Turtle Restoration Project-Texas and founder of HEART (Help Endangered Animals-Ridley Turtles). “We hope action is taken while the legislature is in session.”

Pages of signatures on petitions for the marine reserve, support of the sea turtle program at the Galveston NOAA facility and against longline fishing will be sent to legislators and the United Nations.

Renee Brawner who teaches science at Bolivar Intermediate and Elementary School expressed the thoughts of many attendees: “I learned so much and so did my students. We will bring the information back to those who could not attend. Thanks for speaking for the sea turtles who cannot speak for themselves.”

Photo/ Angela Hadden