As sea turtle nesting season on the upper Texas coast nears, hundreds of volunteers with Turtle Island Restoration Network would be prepared to patrol Texas Gulf Coast beaches daily to find and protect nesting sea turtles and their eggs to help their survival.

Three sea turtle species — the critically endangered Kemp’s ridley, loggerhead and green — return to the beaches of Texas and Mexico every year to lay their nests. Last year, 209 nests were confirmed on the Texas coast, 190 of which were Kemp’s ridley. Eight loggerhead nests and 11 green nests were also confirmed.

Turtle Island Restoration Network has played an active role in the Upper Texas Coast sea turtle nest patrol detection and protection program since its inception in 2002, and we will continue to work to support the protection of nesting sea turtles and their eggs. This has been a collaborative sea turtle conservation project between Turtle Island Restoration Network and Texas A&M University at Galveston.

When a nest is located, the eggs are excavated and transferred to Padre Island National Seashore for incubation and release. In addition to looking for evidence of nesting turtles, nest patrol volunteers often find stranded turtles and injured birds, dolphins and other coastal wildlife.

This year due to the COVID-19 and coronavirus pandemic the start of nest patrols will be delayed until May 1. This decision was made to ensure the safety of our volunteers and staff, and it will be reevaluated every two weeks to determine a safe start date for nest patrol season.

Turtle Island Restoration Network asks residents to call the Texas sea turtle hotline, 866-887-8535, if they see a sea turtle, a nest, or tracks on the beach. Turtle Island Restoration Network has sponsored the sea turtle hotline for the Texas coast for more than 10 years and continues to raise awareness of the need to report any nesting, injured or deceased sea turtle to the hotline along the entire Texas coast.

Joanie Steinhaus is program director of the Gulf of Mexico branch of the Turtle Island Restoration Network.

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