The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle is native to the Gulf of Mexico and Texas and throughout its time on these shores, this species has been through a lot. Considered critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), this sea turtle went from 40,000 females nesting in the 1940s to 250 in the 80s. In the U.S., it is considered critically endangered by the Endangered Species Act. Although efforts by conservationists and lawmakers have increased the number of nesting females to 7,000, the situation remains dire as the numbers have remained stagnant since 2010.
In order to protect the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, it is important to know what threatens their survival in the first place. Industrial fishing is a common culprit for the deaths of many sea turtles, including Kemp’s Ridley. Small sea turtles are often swept up in the bycatch of industrial fishing and get caught in trawls or gill nets. Luckily, fisheries can modify fishing gear to lower the risk of bycatch by using acoustic pingers, turtle excluder devices, and placing lights on gillnets to let the species escape unharmed.
Boats also cause sea turtles their lives. When a vessel strikes a sea turtle a number of injuries can occur that make it unable to function properly and survive in the water. One such injury is the bubble butt syndrome which creates a pocket of air in the Kemp’s Ridley’s shell and makes it unable to dive into the water to catch food. This is why it is important for water vessels to be vigilant and for people to support their local turtle hospitals that help to rehabilitate creatures after being injured.
It is especially important for people to protect the beaches where Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles nest. The Kemp’s Ridley’s eggs and nesting sites are extremely hard to see so it is important that people do not drive over the sand. It is also important for people to clean up after themselves on beach sites. Different types of garbage left on the sand can easily wash into the ocean, where Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles often mistake it for food. Organizing beach cleanups is one helpful way to aid in the survival of the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle.
It is important to realize that in our own small ways, we can all protect Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles and other species too.
Fisheries, NOAA. “Kemp's Ridley Turtle.” NOAA, 22 July 2022, https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/kemps-ridley-turtle.
“Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle.” National Wildlife Federation, https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Reptiles/Sea-Turtles/Kemps-Ridley-Sea-Turtle.
National Park Service. “Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 10 Oct. 2020, https://www.nps.gov/pais/learn/nature/kridley.htm.
Loggerhead Marinelife Center. “Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle.” Loggerhead Marinelife Center, 30 Apr. 2021, https://marinelife.org/seaturtles/kemps/.