Our cover this month is a painting titled “Fantasy Red Turtle” by artist Robert Peterson, who owns the Vacation on Canvas Gallery at 2113 Post office. Using vivid colors and precise details Peterson has created a number of engaging paintings featuring these majestic sea turtles that are on display in his downtown gallery.

We felt it would be fitting to have a turtle grace our cover for this April issue. After all, the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nesting season begins each year in April and lasts through early August.

For those of you that didn’t know, the Kemp’s ridley is the official sea turtle of Texas and a very critically endangered species. Our state sea turtle will soon be coming ashore to nest on our Galveston Island beaches, facing threats from both predators and humans. Their nesting areas are often camouflaged with covered sand and can easily be stepped on or crushed by people or vehicles. The nesting range for the Kemp’s is from Galveston to Tamaulipas, Mexico. During the 2014 nesting season, 12,053 nests were found on the beaches in Mexico and 119 nests along the Texas coast.

Turtle Island Restoration Network is sponsoring nest patrols this season, and they will be working with a team of dedicated volunteers to ensure that the world’s smallest sea turtle has the best chance of survival on our shores. Volunteer patrols will walk the routes – one on East Beach, three on the west end of the Island and two on Surfside – twice daily Monday through Saturday through mid July. All volunteers have undergone training to learn how to properly identify, locate and protect sea turtle nests in Galveston coastal areas.

The Kemp’s average clutch size is 100 eggs. This species lays the smallest eggs of the sea turtles. The Kemp’s eggs are about the size of a ping pong ball and are perfectly round in shape with a leathery shell. Nesting females will on average lay two to three clutches per season. The incubation period ranges from 48 to 62 days, depending on air temperature. The temperature within the nest will affect the sex ratio of the nest. Incubation temperatures below 29.5 degrees Celsius (85 degrees Fahrenheit) tend to produce male offspring. Therefore, lower spring incubation temperatures would tend to produce a large proportion of male babies.

In 2014, Turtle Island Restoration Network assumed responsibility for volunteer recruitment, training and coordination of the Upper Texas Coast Nesting Beach Monitor Program. The Upper Coast program is one of six patrol units on the Texas Coast that provides vital sea turtle nesting data, first responders when sea turtles are sighted by the public, and crucial training to volunteers. The Galveston-based Sea Turtle Action Center is a hub for all of the Gulf of Mexico activities. It serves as a volunteer and outreach center.

If you would like to volunteer or donate call 409.795.8426 or email joanie@seaturtles.org.

John Hall, Publisher