The waters of Mississippi commonly support three of seven sea turtles species that call the Gulf of Mexico home: the Green (Chelonia mydas), the Loggerhead (Caretta caretta), and the Kemp's Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii). They display a wide range of ecological strategies, from the plant consuming Green sea turtle to the crab-eating Loggerhead and Kemp's Ridley sea turtles.
Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles in the Gulf of Mexico
The Kemp's Ridley is the rarest sea turtle in the world and is the most endangered. The range of the Kemp's Ridley sea turtle is restricted primarily to the Gulf of Mexico, with some juvenile and adult turtles inhabiting waters off the Atlantic coast.
The main nesting grounds are located along isolated stretches of beach centered at Rancho Nuevo, Mexico, with limited nesting in Texas. Kemp's Ridley nest in large aggregations, called "arribadas" (from the Spanish word for arrival). After nesting, many adult Kemp's Ridleys migrate to foraging grounds off the coast of Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. This species almost became extinct in the 1980s, but has shown signs of recovery due to protection of turtles on the nesting and foraging grounds.
The Mississippi Sound is an important developmental habitat for the Kemp's Ridley sea turtle. Juveniles inhabit the Mississippi
Sound for approximately a decade before they transition to adult feeding and breeding grounds. The warm shallow waters of the Mississippi Sound support blue crab populations, an important food source for the Kemp's Ridley. The survival of this endangered species depends on a healthy and vibrant Mississippi Sound.
How you can help Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles
There are a number of threats facing Kemp's Rileys and other marine life including reductions in habitat quality, contact with commercial fishing boats and nets, and marine debris. Since 2010, numerous Kemp's Ridley juveniles have stranded and died along the Mississippi coast and a large number of turtles are being caught off of local fishing piers. this is called "incidental capture". Incidental captured turtles are rehabilitated at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) in Gulfport, Mississippi. If you observe a stranded or incidentally captured turtle, please call the IMMS stranding hotline (1-888-SOS-DOLPHIN) to report it. Another ways to help is to remove any trash you see on the beach or pier.
This public service announcement was created by Asher Day for her 2015 Girl Scout Gold Award project.