Last year around this time, DSN reported on a Corpus Christi Caller-Times story documenting that 135 sea turtle nests were located in 8,895 hours of surveys over 73,632 miles of Texas beaches. Of these, 128 nests were Kemp’s ridleys (Lepidochelys kempii), six nests were loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta), and one nest was from a green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas).
This was remarkable at the time because it was a record for Kemp’s ridley turtles, who were hard hit by shrimp trawlers, which ensnare and drown the turtles with their large, fast moving nets. Escape hatches, called Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs), have been required on shrimp trawl nets since the late 1980s.
The latest counts are in now for the 2008 nesting season from Donna Shaver, chief of sea turtle science and recovery at Padre Island National Seashore. She says…
the future looks promising for Kemp’s ridleys… a record 195 Kemp’s ridley nests were found on the Texas coast this nesting season, which runs from April to mid-July. It’s the fifth consecutive record-breaking year.
Four green turtle, four loggerhead and one leatherback nest were also discovered. The leatherback nesting site is the first on a Texas beach since the 1930s. None of the recovered leatherback eggs hatched, unfortunately. Leatherback turtles are critically endangered, predicted to go extinct by 2033 if the current rate of decline continues.
The success of Texas turtle nesting populations is largely attributed to a captive rearing program which collects and incubates the eggs in their native sand, at the appropriate temperatures for each gender. One of the original Science papers documenting temperature dependent sex determination in sea turtles is abstracted here, if you’re interested in learning more.
Why is captive rearing important in Texas? We like to drive our trucks on beaches here. It’s what we do. In Mexico they eat the eggs. Here, we just crush them, and never know it.