A few days ago, more than 20 dead Kemp's ridley sea turtles washed up on Mississippiâ€™s shores. While there is no evidence the deaths are linked to the oil spill, the incident may be merely foreshadowing whatâ€™s to come for sea turtles in the Gulf.
Sea turtles come to the surface to breathe, and NOAA reports that between 30 and 50 sea turtles (species unknown) were seen swimming yesterday in or near the oil spill. It may be only a matter of time until we see oiled turtles stranded on beaches as well.
Kempâ€™s ridleys, the smallest and most threatened sea turtle in the world, typically spend their entire lives in the Gulf of Mexico, nesting only on beaches in Mexico and southern Texas, giving them the name the â€śGulfâ€™s Sea Turtleâ€ť. And right now is the peak migration season for the turtles as they return to their nesting grounds.
During my turtle trip to Bald Head Island, NC in June, the loggerhead nesting numbers were looking dismal, but it was fairly early in the season, so the folks at the Island Conservancy were hoping things would turn around. It turns out Bald Head had its worst nesting year on record since 1983.
This year's loggerhead nesting numbers are in, and yesterday Oceana announced that this year was one of the worst on record from North Carolina to Florida. In Florida, which accounts for nearly 90 percent of loggerhead nesting in the United States, nesting decreased by more than 15 percent in 2009.