A few days ago, more than 20 dead Kemp's ridley sea turtles washed up on Mississippi’s shores. While there is no evidence the deaths are linked to the oil spill, the incident may be merely foreshadowing what’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.
Kemp’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 “Gulf’s Sea Turtle”. And right now is the peak migration season for the turtles as they return to their nesting grounds.
The Kemp’s ridley has been making something of a comeback in the Gulf. After populations declined severely as a result of poaching and fishing bycatch, their populations have been on the rebound thanks to protected nesting beaches and the required use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in some commercial fisheries.
Obviously, the oil spill could throw a wrench into their recovery process.
We’ll keep you posted on the impacts of the spill on sea turtles as we learn more.