Tracking Turtles

After the oil spill: Tracking Texas' endangered sea turtles

After the oil spill: Tracking Texas' endangered sea turtles

PADRE ISLAND NATIONAL SEASHORE (from Texas Parks & Wildlife Department) — The species dates back four-million-years and today it's telling us what it needs to survive after one of the worst oil spills in history.

On Padre Island, scientists are working to assess the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the endangered Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle.

The turtle’s primary nesting beaches are in Mexico, but in the U.S., Texas hosts more nesting Ridley’s than any other state, providing a unique opportunity for oil spill assessment.

Donna Shaver is the Sea Turtle Science and Recovery Division Chief at Padre Island National Seashore. “We are doing this work to gather information to aid with our natural resource damage assessment study which is looking at potential injury to nesting Kemp’s Ridleys as well as their offspring from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. It’s important to know where these turtles go in between nesting season so we know what waters are very important for protection of these animals.”

The Kemp’s Ridley mainly nests near Rancho Nuevo, Mexico, but their full nesting and feeding range includes most of the Gulf of Mexico, including the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. 

“It is still an endangered species greatly depleted compared to former numbers," explained Shaver, "and if we are going to recover this species, we need to  be able to protect them in the area where they spend most of their lives.”

You can follow the movements of satellite-tagged turtles at www.seaturtle.org.

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Editor's note: The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department produces these multi-media reports as an educational resource.

Austin Photo: News_TPWD_sea turtles_June 2012_swimming
A Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle swimming out to sea Photo by Chase A. Fountain
Austin Photo: News_TPWD_sea turtles_June 2012_hatchling release
Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle hatchling release, South Padre Island (2010) Photo by Chase A. Fountain
Austin Photo: News_TPWD_sea turtles_June 2012_attaching transmitter
Scientists attach a satellite transmitter on the Kemp's Ridley sea turtle's carapace Photo by Bruce Biermann
Austin Photo Set: News_Melissa Gaskill_sea turtles_Nov 2011_baby
Courtesy of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery