Conserving the Nature of America
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Sea Turtle Nesting Season Begins on the Texas Coast
Texas Coastal Visitors Asked to be Observant

March 30, 2018

Contact(s):

Mary Kay Skoruppa, TCESFO, 361-225-7314
Donna J. Shaver, Ph.D., 361-949-8173, ext. 226
Report Sea Turtles Nesting, 1-866-TURTLE5 (1-866-887-8535)


Kemps Ridley sea turtle. Donna Shaver, NPS.

Kemps Ridley sea turtle. Credit: Donna Shaver, NPS.

Sea turtle nesting season along the Texas coast begins around April 1 st each year. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) urges everyone using Texas beaches to do their part to help detect and protect threatened and endangered sea turtles on the beach. This includes the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, which is the most critically endangered sea turtle in the world, as well as the threatened loggerhead and green sea turtles. Everyone visiting Texas beaches from April through September is asked to watch for nesting sea turtles, their nests, and emerging hatchlings and report them immediately.

Biologists and volunteers will be patrolling Texas Gulf Coast beaches daily from April through July to find and protect the nesting turtles and their eggs to help ensure their survival. The Service along with the National Park Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas A&M University at Galveston, the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, and Sea Turtle Inc. will be working together to coordinate a response when a nesting sea turtle or sea turtle nest is found.

The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is the smallest species of sea turtle, measuring about two feet long and weighing up to 100 pounds. Kemp’s ridley sea turtles usually come ashore during the daylight hours to lay eggs in the sand. The green sea turtle and loggerhead sea turtle also nest along the Texas coast but in smaller numbers than the Kemp’s ridley, and unlike the Kemp’s ridley, usually come ashore at night.

This year marks 40 years (1978-2018) of bi-national Kemp’s ridley sea turtle conservation. In 1947, an estimated 40,000 Kemp’s ridley turtles nested on one stretch of beach near Rancho Nuevo, Mexico. This was the only known nesting site at that time. Over the next four decades, the species suffered a devastating decline with a 99.4% reduction in numbers of nests. In response to the dramatic loss of this species, the Service and its partner agencies launched a cooperative international project in 1978. The project focuses on nest protection efforts in the U.S. and Mexico, implementing regulations requiring the use of turtle excluder devices on commercial fishing trawlers, and establishing a second nesting colony of Kemp’s ridley sea turtles at the Padre Island National Seashore, Texas, where historical nesting had been documented. The Service is joining forces with the National Park Service and other organizations to celebrate the 40-year milestone of successful cooperation between the United States and Mexico to save a species from extinction.

Cooperative efforts are paying off for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. In 2017, 353 Kemp’s ridley nests were found in Texas, a 90% increase over the number of nests found in Texas during 2016. Nesting also increased by 35% in Mexico compared to the previous year. The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle remains the most critically endangered species in the world; therefore, bi-national conservation efforts must continue to fully recover the species.

“Our successes in protecting Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nests are due in no small part to the many informed and engaged visitors to the Texas coast,” said Amy Lueders, Southwest Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “These visitors are playing a critical conservation role by identifying and reporting nests, and the resulting information is enhancing a multi-agency effort that is protecting sea turtle populations for the long-term.”

The public is asked to drive slowly and carefully on beaches during the nesting and hatching seasons so that vehicles do not inadvertently collide with nesting turtles or emerging hatchlings. The maximum speed on a Texas beach per the Texas Transportation Code is 15 mph. Beach-goers should be prepared for short delays in order to ensure that nesting turtles and hatchlings remain safe and undisturbed.

If a nesting sea turtle is seen, the Service advises visitors to quickly report the event by calling 1-866- TURTLE5 (1-866-887-8535). If you observe and report a sea turtle, please remain at the site until a biologist arrives, if possible. Everyone should keep their distance and must not disturb sea turtles. Never walk on or disturb the nesting sites. The female turtle will dig a nest in the sand and lay her eggs. After the turtle is finished laying her eggs, she must be allowed to enter the surf. If you cannot stay until a biologist arrives, please carefully mark the site by laying pieces of beach debris, such as pieces of wood or plastic, in a large circle around the nest area, not on top of the nest, so biologists will be able to find the nest when they arrive.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel and download photos from our Flickr page. http://www.fws.gov/southwest/


The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel and download photos from our Flickr page.