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Turtle tussle

July 22, 2020

The Kemp’s ridley turtle is critically endangered. That might be because it nests in a fairly small geographic area, mostly in Tamaulipas, extending north to the barrier islands of south Texas. There is a bi-national program to protect it. Here in south Texas, that has resulted in the Padre Island National Seashore running daily patrols to locate nests, move eggs, incubate them, then release the hatchlings. Those releases have become popular attractions. More importantly, the national parks work to monitor the state of turtles along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coast, track their migrations, estimate their populations, and try to understand variations in those. Donna Shaver has made turtle preservation and research her career work.

That costs money. Which funds have been reviewed. Perhaps putting some of the turtle work on the chopping block. Shaver has turned whistle blower, and has been placed under a gag order. According to Jeff Ruch of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility:

The review would sharply curtail a program. It would confine rescue of sea turtles to park boundaries. It would cut back on research, and it would limit the public releases of hatchlings to just one week of the year, which doesn’t make any sense at all. It would cut back on the beach patrols and all of these recommendations violate, in some instances, the Endangered Species Act.

Which makes it less likely that my taller sister will get to see a hatchling release. Something she long has wanted to do.

The part that is a bit worrisome is limiting the Kemp egg retrieval to park boundaries. Those turtles don’t know where the national seashore ends, and where the county and state parks begin.

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