After Covid-19 Closures, Gulf Beaches Reopen as Sea Turtles Nest

After Covid-19 Closures, Gulf Beaches Reopen as Sea Turtles Nest

A critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle tries to nest on a beach in Surfside, Texas. | Photo by Turtle Island Restoration Network

For Immediate Release, June 16, 2020

Contact: Joanie Steinhaus, Gulf Program Director, joanie@seaturtles.org  

After Covid-19 Closures, Gulf Beaches Reopen as Sea Turtles Nest

GALVESTON, Texas — As Gulf coast beaches reopen after being closed due to Covid-19, beachgoers may find visitors already taking up space on the sand: nesting sea turtles. With communities seeing an increase in activity on beaches, experts with Turtle Island Restoration Network remind community members and visitors to not disturb the animals if they are encountered, and to report any sightings to local officials.

“If we want sea turtles to return to our beaches, everyone must do their part to ensure these endangered species are protected,” said Gulf Program Director Joanie Steinhaus. “Every nest counts.”

Five endangered and threatened sea turtle species – the Kemp’s ridley, loggerhead, hawksbill, leatherback and green – return to Gulf coast beaches from March to October each year to lay their nests. During this time, if a nesting sea turtle is on the beach, it is important to keep your distance and not disturb the turtle. This includes avoiding flash photography, making loud noises, and ensuring others do not approach the turtle. Give her 30 feet of space as she crawls to the dunes to nest, and as she returns to the water. Do not disturb the tracks or the nest cavity and call the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network in your state to report the sighting: 

  • Alabama: 866-732-8878
  • Florida: 888-404-3922
  • Georgia: 912-280-6892
  • Louisiana: 844-SEA-TRTL
  • Mississippi: 228-369-4796
  • North Carolina: 252-241-7367
  • South Carolina: 800-922-5431
  • Texas: 1-866-TURTLE-5

Be prepared to report the location of the nest and take note of any landmarks to identify the area. Please remember, it is a federal crime to harass or harm a sea turtle. 

After delaying the annual sea turtle patrol on the upper Texas coast to ensure the safety of volunteers and staff amid Covid-19, Turtle Island Restoration Network and Texas A&M University at Galveston are resuming their efforts to protect nesting turtles and their eggs. So far this year 250 Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nests have been confirmed on the Texas coast — surpassing last year’s total of 190. 

“Since we weren’t able to patrol for nesting sea turtles at the beginning of the season, we will need our community’s help to ensure all nesting sea turtles, eggs, and hatchlings are protected,” Steinhaus said. “Please be on the lookout and call the sea turtle hotline, 1-866-TURTLE-5, if you see a sea turtle or tracks anywhere on the Texas coast.”

Turtle Island Restoration Network has sponsored the 1-866-TURTLE-5 sea turtle hotline for more than ten years, and continues to raise awareness of the need to report any nesting, injured or deceased sea turtle to the hotline along the entire Texas coast.

Turtle Island Restoration Network is a global ocean conservation nonprofit that works to protect and restore populations of endangered sea turtles and marine biodiversity on the Texas coast and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Learn more at www.seaturtles.org/gulf

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