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It’s Now Sea Turtle Nesting Season in the Gulf!

May 10, 2011

Latest reports from sea turtle biologist Donna Shaver of Padre Island National Seashore indicate that 78 Kemp’s ridleys have already nested along the Texas coast! Want to see exactly where they’ve been nesting? Click here for a map!
In addition, the Atlantic green turtles are nesting in Tortuguero, Costa Rica; the loggerhead turtles are nesting on the West Florida coast; leatherbacks have arrived to nest on Eastern Florida beaches as well as Southern Georgia. There’s a lot going on everywhere!

But now that the sea turtles are nesting and the little hatchlings will emerge soon, there is much to be done to ensure that the babies make it out to the sea. Here’s a quick little list of just some ways to help out:

  • Owners of beachfront property must turn out any porch lights after sunset, and use blackout curtains to keep light from getting out of their homes and shining out towards the beaches. Light bothers nesting sea turtles (except for red light). Plus, little hatchlings use light reflection off of the waves from the moon and stars to guide themselves toward the water. If they instead follow city lights inland, you will have lots of dead baby sea turtles all over city streets and parking lots in the morning.
  • Again, if you own beachfront property, make sure you clear the beach of any umbrellas, chairs, or other obstacles that may block a sea turtle mother from nesting on the beach.
  • And also, lock up your garbage because loose garbage = raccoons = animals that will eat baby sea turtles.
  • Clean up beach litter to prevent sea turtles from becoming entangled, or to prevent them from eating it. Ingestion of plastic causes intestinal blockages, malnourishment, and may eventually lead to death.
  • Support sea turtle conservation projects! Join a volunteer night patrol.

It’s exciting news to hear about nesting sea turtles, especially with the abnormally high numbers of stranded turtles popping up everywhere in the Gulf of Mexico. This year so far we’ve already seen the sea turtle death toll reach way higher than the normal average (around 150 reported). Most of the time though, accidental catches of sea turtles by fishermen are not even recorded, and the dead sea turtle is thrown overboard to sink and decay at the bottom of the ocean. Scientists estimate that the real number of marine mammals harmed in the BP spill may be up to 50 times higher than what we can observe.

The high number of sea turtle deaths may not even be because of the oil spill—it is most likely because of shrimp trawling. The data all points to shrimp trawling as the top killer of sea turtles in the United States.
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