Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles Nests Found on New Beaches on Gulf Coast

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles Nests Found on New Beaches on Gulf Coast

One of the most endangered sea turtles in the world has had some nesting success in new places along the Gulf Coast this season. In May, biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department found a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nest on a beach in Galveston Island State Park. The turtle has seen a rebound in the number of nests along the Texas coast, but they had not been found at Galveston Island State Park for a decade. The nest was excavated, and the eggs were incubated at Padre Island National Seashore where they were released after hatching.

“The Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle is one of the most endangered sea turtle species in the world so every egg matters,” said Dr. Christopher Marshall, Professor of Marine Biology at Texas A&M University at Galveston and Director for the Gulf Center for Sea Turtle Research. “A lot of nesting habitat for the Kemp’s ridley has been lost to storms, high tide and predation, which is why it is important to transport these nests to an environment where they have the best chance for survival into adulthood.”

Then in August, Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) and Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) discovered hatchlings at Breton National Wildlife Refuge. Two hatchlings were observed making their way to the water with more than 53 turtle crawls documented from the nest—it was the first time in 75 years that the endangered turtle had nested in the Chandeleur Islands. CPRA and LDWF have closely monitored the Chandeleur Islands since May as part of an effort by the Regionwide Trustee Implementation Group to design a project that will restore the islands after they were impacted by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and numerous tropical weather systems over the years. The discovery of nesting sea turtles will help shape future restoration plans for the island and ensure sea turtle nesting habitat is preserved and improved.

“It is well known that the Chandeleur Islands provide key habitats for a host of important species; however, with the recent discovery of a successful Kemp’s ridley sea turtle hatching, the islands’ value to the region has been elevated,” said LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet. “We are gaining a better understanding of the benefits this barrier island restoration may provide in the recovery of this endangered species across the Gulf of Mexico.”

“We were very excited to learn that sea turtles are once again using the Chandeleur Islands for nesting,” said Leopoldo Miranda-Castro, Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We’ve worked hard with our partners to restore wildlife and habitat in the Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill through planning and implementing numerous projects, including on the Chandeleur Islands. The discovery of sea turtles nesting and successfully hatching is a huge step forward demonstrating the amazing resilience of fish and wildlife resources, including threatened and endangered species, and the importance of restoring these barrier islands to protect humans and nature.”

Additional nests may be discovered on the Chandeleur Islands as monitoring continues and hatchlings begin to emerge. The peak of sea turtle nesting season is June through July with young hatching 50 to 60 days later.

September 16, 2022