Instead of protecting Kemp's ridley sea turtles from swimming into the oiled waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the National Park Service has decided to continue releasing hatchlings as usual from Padre Island National Seashore along the South Texas coast. In response to STRP's emergency request to hold or relocate critically endangered Kemp's ridleys in safer waters, the National Park Service stated that a decision was made on June 8 that "hatchlings that would emerge on beaches that are not oiled and that do not have oil immediately offshore, such as those in Texas and southwest Florida, would be released as normal." Download the letter as a PDF.
Unfortunately, since then oil has been spotted off the coast of Texas. It is also not clear whether hatchlings would be caught up in currents that will carry oiled waters.
Given changing conditions and the vulnerability of Kemp's ridleys to extinction given their low numbers, STRP is urging the National Park Serivce to reconsider. We are also requesting that the agency provide all information that was used to make the determination about allowing the Kemp's ridley releases to continue as usual.
In related actions, STRP is seeking a delay in the opening of the Texas shrimp season until an analysis of the harm to the sea turtle populations from the oil spill can be directly assessed. The combined threates from the oil spill and shrimp trawling could be a double whammy for these sea turtles, and have the potential to reverse the species' recovery from near-extinction.