Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Recovery Plan
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Work in Progress

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In 1984, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) (collectively referred to as ‘the Services’) issued a multi-species recovery plan for listed sea turtles in the southeast U.S. region. The Services revisited this plan and in 1992 produced an individual species recovery plan for the Kemp’s ridley in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Since then, much has been accomplished to recover this species, new threats have been identified, and new information on the biology and status of the species is available. A comprehensive revision of the current recovery plan is now underway to incorporate this new information and to update and prioritize needed recovery actions.

Since the recovery plan is a “road map” to recovery, as well as an outreach tool to all interested entities who may be considered stakeholders in the species’ recovery, it must contain certain elements and be a clear and understandable document. Recovery plans are structured so that the biological needs and constraints of the species are made clear and the threats to various life stages are delineated. Beyond the general background information on biology and threats, the recovery plan requires three components: 1) a description of site-specific recovery actions; 2) objective, measurable delisting criteria; and 3) estimates of time and cost for carrying out actions. The goal of the recovery planning process is to identify the recovery actions that, when implemented, will reduce the threats and improve the species’ population status to a point where reclassification or delisting is possible based on specific criteria. The objectives are broad statements about the recovery needs for the species and the criteria are the measures by which you identify whether the recovery objectives have been met. The criteria must also relate back to the 5 listing factors (based on threats): (1) habitat loss, (2) over-utilization, (3) disease or predation, (4) inadequate regulations, and (5) other factors.

A binational Kemp’s ridley Recovery Team, with members from Mexico and the United States, has met three times since October, 2002. A critical component to recovering the Kemp’s ridley has and will continue to be the binational efforts undertaken by Mexico and the United States. To reflect this collaborative effort and to ensure appropriate participation in the recovery process, the Services determined that the revised plan should be approved and signed by both countries. Mexico’s representation to the recovery team has been expanded to include a variety of expertise. To date, the team has listened to presentations by experts on pertinent characteristics of Kemp’s ridley biology and as well as aspects of current conditions in the species’ environment. In June, 2003, the team viewed nest protection efforts first hand by visiting the Kemp’s ridley major nesting beaches in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico. Team members have been assigned to write revisions to the Background section of the recovery plan that includes descriptions/updates to the listing status in both countries, the legal status in Mexico, a description of the species and its taxonomy, population trends and distribution, life history and ecology, habitat characteristics/ecosystem, threats, historical and ongoing conservation efforts, and the species’ biological constraints and needs.

A major focus of any recovery plan is an analysis of threats to the species and the Kemp’s ridley Recovery Team has followed the Atlantic Loggerhead team in developing a summary table of threats which is organized by threats to life stages and habitat. This threats table not only helps to elucidate the greatest threat to certain life stages, it can also be used to determine which life stage a certain category of threats is having the greatest impact on.

The Services recognize that the success of recovery efforts, including development and revision of recovery plans, is in large part dependent on significant stakeholder involvement that goes beyond requesting public comment on draft recovery plans. The Services must identify representatives of affected interests (stakeholders) that can participate in the recovery plan process, including the implementation phase. The Kemp’s ridley Recovery Team is planning stakeholder meetings in the U.S. and Mexico and is compiling a list of potential interested entities to invite to these meetings.