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 27, 2020

Contact(s):

Mary Kay Skoruppa, TCESFO, 361-225-7314
Donna J. Shaver, Ph.D., 361-949-8174, ext. 226
Report Sea Turtles Nesting, 1-866-TURTLE5 (1-866-887-8535)


Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle.

Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle. Credit: USFWS.

Sea turtle nesting season begins along the Texas coast around April 1 st each year. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) asks Texas coastal visitors 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. Visitors are asked to watch for nesting sea turtles, nests, and hatchlings from April through September and report them immediately.

The FWS along with the National Park Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas A&M University at Galveston, Turtle Island Restoration Network, 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 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 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 42 years (1978-2020) 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 FWS 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.

Cooperative efforts are paying off for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. In 2019, 190 Kemp’s ridley nests were found in Texas. The largest number recorded in Texas since 1978 was in 2017, when 353 nests were documented. 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.

“The Texas coast is an area of significant importance to the conservation and recovery of Kemp’s ridley sea turtles,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Amy Lueders. “Visitors to the Texas coast can play an essential role in protecting Kemp’s ridley sea turtle by identifying and reporting any nests or hatchlings that they see.”

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 FWS 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. Visitors 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 other debris, 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.