Sea Turtle Inc. Works to Aid Turtles, Educate Public
For the endangered sea turtles found on the Texas coast, people are a double-edged sword. Those who understand what’s at stake for the vulnerable creatures can make for great allies, but individuals who are unaware of the impact humans have on turtles can be harmful.
One step people can take to start learning how they can help with sea turtle conservation is to visit Sea Turtle Inc., located at 6617 Padre Blvd. on South Padre Island. Visitors to the facility can expect to see resident and rehabilitating sea turtles in tanks, a wealth of educational material, and talks led by staff members. A variety of special programming — and a gift shop — is also available.
Founded in 1977, Sea Turtle Inc. was originally intended to specifically help the highly endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, which nests in South Texas. Now, the organization has expanded its mission to conserve all sea turtle species, rehabilitate injured sea turtles, and educate the public about sea turtles.
“The public can do a lot to help sea turtles,” Sea Turtle Inc. conservation coordinator Mariana Devlin wrote in an email. “One of the easiest things to do is to cut down our use of single-use plastics that can easily end up in the ocean.”
Single-use plastics include items like plastic water bottles, cutlery, straws, and coffee cups, among others. Devlin recommends transitioning to reusable beverage containers and stainless steel straws.
Beach-goers at the Island have an additional call to action.
“People can make a big difference by picking up after their trash and keeping the native vegetation intact,” Devlin wrote.
The Texas coast is home to five different sea turtle species, she added. These include the Green sea turtle, the Loggerhead sea turtle, the Hawksbill sea turtle, the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, and the rarely seen Leatherback sea turtle.
“All of these species are either classified as threatened or endangered, but the most vulnerable to date is the one that nests here in South Texas, the Kemp’s ridley,” Devlin wrote.
Most of the dangers for sea turtles come from humans, including pollution.
“At Sea Turtle Inc., we rescue and rehabilitate a lot of turtles that get entangled in fishing line, turtles that get hit by boats, and turtles that ingest marine debris,” Devlin wrote. “Other threats that sea turtles face include poaching of eggs and nesting females, destruction of nesting habitat for beach development, and natural predator attacks.”
There are a number of challenges workers and volunteers at Sea Turtle Inc. face while attempting to help sea turtles. Some issues include litter on the beach, illegal fishing and dumping of nets, beach drivers who speed in nesting areas, patrolling a remote area, maintaining equipment, and more, Devlin wrote.
But in spite of the challenges, Sea Turtle Inc. still plays an important role in sea turtle conservation.
“Every year, we rescue and rehabilitate hundreds of sea turtles. Rehabilitation, coupled with education, is one of the most important ways in which we contribute to sea turtle conservation,” Devlin wrote. “Sea Turtle Inc. patrols hundreds of miles looking for sea turtle nests every year. Sea turtle eggs are relocated to a protected area where they safely incubate away from predators and vehicular traffic. Once hatched, baby sea turtles are safely released into the ocean.”
When possible, Sea Turtle Inc. posts alerts of when there will be a public release of hatchlings, providing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for people who attend.
For Devlin, there’s a clear picture of what conservation success looks like.
“It looks like an empty rehabilitation facility and nesting neophytes every year,” she wrote. Neophytes are first-time nesting female sea turtles. “A clean beach and a full corral. People leaving our facility after being educated, motivated to make a difference.”
And Sea Turtle Inc. welcomes people interested in having a greater impact on sea turtle conservation.
“If you want to be more directly involved in sea turtle conservation, you can also volunteer with our organization,” Devlin wrote. “We are always looking for volunteers to help us run all aspects of our programs.”
For more information about sea turtle conservation and Sea Turtle Inc., visit the organization’s website at www.seaturtleinc.org.