Kemp's ridley sea turtle is the most critically endangered sea turtle
in the world. Just 50 years ago, at least 40,000 females nested in a
single day. Now less than 2,000 nest annually.
Kemp's ridleys live in shallow coastal areas, bays, and lagoons. While
they are primarily located in the Gulf of Mexico, they migrate up and
down the Atlantic Coast, too. The diet of the adult Kemp's includes
crabs, shrimp, and fish.
While the majority of Kemp's nest at Rancho Nuevo, Mexico, the only US
nesting site for the Kemp's is at Padre Island, Texas. Rancho Nuevo is
protected by a no-fishing zone in its adjacent waters. This has proven
effective in protecting sea turtles enroute to this nesting site.
During 1998, the nesting to stranding ration was 620 times higher at
Padre Island than Rancho Nuevo.
The United States and Mexican governments have spent millions of
dollars and thousands of hours to try and establish a nesting colony of
Kemp's ridley sea turtles at Padre Island. Some turtles from this
project have returned to nest at Padre Island. Populations are showing
signs of recovery, but it will be many decades before this species is
considered fully recovered, if ever, and it will take additional
protection measures including marine reserves to achieve it.