Texas A&M University at Galveston is delaying the start of its sea turtle patrol season from April 1 to May 1 after recommendations from the state regarding the spread of coronavirus.
The postponement shouldn't greatly hinder operations in Galveston because sea turtles don't often nest until the end of April or early May on the upper Texas coast, said Christopher Marshall, director of the Texas A&M University at Galveston Gulf Turtle Research Center.
Volunteers typically walk the beach along Galveston looking for nests so they can take the eggs to the Padre Island National Seashore facility for incubation, where high tides and predators can't damage the eggs, Marshall said. Volunteers also look for stranded sea turtles on their patrols.
"I really feel like in my professional biological opinion, this really isn't going to impact finding nests," Marshall said.
The decision to delay patrols was made to minimize risks to volunteers, staff, students and the community during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the university.
Both the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and National Park Service strongly recommended the delay, according to the university.
Galveston shores attract three endangered turtle species — Kemp's ridley, loggerhead and green sea turtles, according to nonprofit Turtle Island Restoration Network.
"We have to balance risks of human health with our conservation," Marshall said.
Sea turtle patrol normally lasts April 1 to July 15.