On August 17th, the Louisiana Government announced that the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) found traces that the endangered Kemp’s ridley turtles had hatched in the Breton National Wildlife Refuge on the Chandeleur Islands.
“Louisiana was largely written off as a nesting spot for sea turtles decades ago, but this determination demonstrates why barrier island restoration is so important. As we develop and implement projects statewide, we are always keeping in mind what’s needed to preserve our communities and enhance wildlife habitat. Having this knowledge now allows us to make sure these turtles and other wildlife return to our shores year after year,” CRPA Chairman Chip Kline said in the announcement.
This hatching is the first one in at least 75 years. Two baby turtles were seen moving toward the water meanwhile more that 53 sea turtle crawls have been observed.
According to The Guardian, Kemp’s ridleys turtle is the smallest species of sea turtle and scientists are extra happy to find hatchlings of this species. Usually they are found in the Gulf of Mexico and back in the days they were abundant in the area.
“An amateur video from 1947 documented tens of thousands of Kemp’s ridleys nesting near Rancho Nuevo, Mexico on a single day,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) wrote.
By 1980, the number of Kemp’s ridley turtles had collapsed and only 250 nesting females and 702 nests were found in 1985. Thanks to conservation efforts the numbers of nests have increased around 15% each year up until 2009. By then, the increase stalled and the species remained endangered. Their primary threat is being accidentally caught by commercial and recreational fishers.
That the hatchings took place on Chandeleur Islands is also very good news since the island has faced both the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and a bunch of tropical storms. The hatchings act as an argument to continue restoring and protecting the islands.
“The endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle has returned to nest on the Chandeleur Islands, highlighting the need to protect this sensitive habitat so it can continue to be home to ocean and coastal wildlife in the future,” Oceana U.S. Vice President Beth Lowell said, as NPR reported.
“We have a responsibility to protect the wildlife here, and that means creating safe and nourishing environments for these turtles and other animals that call Louisiana home. It’s an exciting discovery, and we hope to see additional hatchlings emerging in the weeks and years to come,” CPRA Executive Director Bren Haase said in the government announcement.
Sea turtle nesting peaks in June and July and the babies hatch 50 to 60 days after. This means that even more nests could be found on the island and the agencies will continue to monitor the area throughout the summer.
Picture: Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority/AP via NPR