A special place

"If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, it is a special place where I spend my afternoon."

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Free Again

A juvenile Kemp's Ridley
    A rare occurrence happened on St. George Island not too long ago. A young female, Kemp's Ridley sea turtle, had the misfortune of being hooked in the neck, by a fisherman, off the beach, on the gulf side of the island. Lucky for the turtle, the fisherman had the good sense not to try to remove the hook himself and called the Department of Fish and Game to deal with it. Because of that, this story has a good ending!
Slowly, but surely, making it's way to the gulf

   The Kemp's Ridley sea turtle is very rare, and one of the most endangered of all sea turtles.  It's the smallest marine turtle in the world, with the adults averaging only about 100 lbs.
Let's get a closer look

   Their nesting habits are also unique, in that the females will arrive in wave, upon wave, on the beach, unlike other sea turtles that arrive one by one. This happening is called an "arriba", meaning arrival, in Spanish. And 95%  of all Kemp's Ridley nests, are found in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico, mainly on a beach near Rancho Nuevo.  Scientists aren't sure what triggers this phenomenon.  It might be the offshore winds, the lunar cycle, or the release of pheromones, in the females. Some of these turtles are known to migrate up the gulf coast, but nests are rarely found, on St. George Island. This island is better known for the nesting of loggerhead, and the occasional green turtles, and leatherbacks, with up to 300 of them nesting here, every year.
"What are you looking at?"

   Kemp's Ridleys, will have two to three clutches, or groups of eggs, laying a total of about about 100, and it takes 50, to 60 days, for them to incubate. Females have been tracked, migrating along the gulf coast, going to and from their nesting areas in Mexico, foraging mainly on swimming crabs, and the occasional jellyfish, or mollusk, or fish.
A face only a mother could love!

   The main threat to these wonderful creatures is the incidental capture in fishing gear. Mainly shrimping trawls, longlines, or dredges. Egg collecting used to be a big issue, but with the nesting beaches being afforded protection in 1966, this is no longer a threat.
Free Again

    Like I said, the ending to this story is a good one. After a week of rehab, at the Gulf World Marine Lab, in Port St. Joe, just west of St. George Island, the female Kemp was released back into the Gulf, in an area of the island that's rarely fished. What a great thing to see.