|July 19, 2004
AUSTIN, TEXAS - The worldís most endangered sea turtle has returned
to nest on Texas beaches in record numbers this year, a hopeful sign for
biologists watching the species come back from the brink of extinction.
A total of 41 Kempís ridley nests have been reported in Texas this year,
breaking past the previous Texas record of 38 nests in 2002.
For the past several years TPWD has worked with a host of other agencies
including the National Park Service, U.S. Fish
Photo By Randall Schorp ©
and Wildlife Service,
National Marine Fisheries Service, Gladys Porter Zoo, University of Texas
and officials in Mexico to restore the Kempís ridley turtles.
"One tactic was to bring some of the eggs from Mexico, hatch the turtles
here in Texas, and imprint them on our beaches," said Mike Ray, of the
Coastal Fisheries Division at TPWD. "The hope was that some would return to
the Padre Island area and the good news is they are doing that."
In 1985, there were fewer than 350 nesting females reported, and this year
that number is approaching 3,000. Hitting the 10,000 mark could down-list
the turtles from endangered to threatened under the federal Endangered
"Weíre getting there," Ray said. "Hopefully within 10 years we could
achieve that level. The Kempís population is expanding by about 14 percent
There are several likely reasons for the increased number of turtle
nestings on Texas beaches. The rapid increase in the nesting population in
Mexico probably caused the Kempís ridley to expand their nesting range. In
2001, TPWD put into action new commercial shrimping regulations that
restricted the size and number of shrimping trawls per vessel in near-shore
waters from the beach to nine nautical miles out into the Gulf of Mexico,
an area where sea turtles feed, mate and come to the beach to nest. Another
shrimping regulation includes a seven-month seasonal ban on shrimp trawling
from lower coast Gulf beaches to five miles offshore. Both regulations were
designed to reduce fishing pressure on shrimp near the beach; however, sea
turtles were afforded more protection from the regulations as well.
Importantly, the use of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) by the commercial
fleet is a major reason the Kempís ridley and other sea turtle populations
are rebounding since the device allows turtles to escape shrimp trawls.
In an effort to protect as many sea turtles as possible, the Padre Island
National Seashore incubates most of the sea turtle eggs found along the
Texas coast and releases the hatchlings into the Gulf of Mexico.
Donna Shaver, Ph.D. and Chief of the Division of Sea Turtle Science and
Recovery at Padre Island National Seashore has been working with sea turtle
conservation efforts for more than 20 years. She is also excited about the
record number of nesting sightings this year.
"Weíve had more nests than ever this year," Shaver said. "We are very
hopeful to set another record in 2006."
Shaver said that all of the work for sea turtle conservation is truly a
cooperative effort by all of the participating partners and also the
"About half of the nests that we record are due to public sightings,"
Shaver said. "We always encourage the public to keep their eyes peeled for
sea turtle nests."
The public can view sea turtle hatchling releases this summer on North
Beach of the National Seashore. The releases usually take place around 6:45
a.m. and are free to attend.
For more information about the hatchling releases including specific
release dates, check online at
or phone the national seashore Hatchling Hotline at (361) 949-7163.