A deceased Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, the world’s most endangered sea turtle and the Texas state sea turtle, is found on the upper Texas coast during the highest recorded stranding event in one month since 1980.

A deceased Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, the world’s most endangered sea turtle and the Texas state sea turtle, is found on the upper Texas coast during the highest recorded stranding event in one month since 1980.
The number of sea turtle strandings along the Texas coastline reached the highest number ever recorded in one month during April and May, the height of sea turtle nesting season.

A total of 159 stranded sea turtles were recorded in April—the highest number of strandings in one month since monitoring began in 1980. Strandings are continuing at a rapid pace, and the latest data shows 186 turtles stranded in Texas through May 21. Most of the turtles were dead when found.

Among those found were 68 dead Kemp's ridley sea turtles, the Texas state sea turtle and the world's most endangered sea turtle with a nesting population of between 7,000 and 9,000 female turtles. The death of even one Kemp's ridley sea turtle is of grave concern.


While further analysis is needed to determine the cause of the high number of sea turtle strandings, local sea turtle conservation nonprofit Turtle Island Restoration Network is concerned sea turtles are interacting with illegal fishing vessels in the area.

"We know turtles are drowning in illegal longline and gillnet fishing operations along the United States-Mexico border in southern Texas," said Turtle Island Restoration Network Gulf Program Director Joanie Steinhaus. "We need government agencies on both sides of the border to make this a priority. The reasons for stranding may be different in other areas like along the upper Texas coast, but the numbers are still alarming."

A stranded sea turtle is one that is found on land or in the water that is dead, injured, or exhibits any indication of ill health or abnormal behavior. It is often difficult to determine why a turtle strands, but turtles that have interacted with fishing vessels have been found with gill net wrapped around their flippers.

Shrimp trawling is one of the primary threats to sea turtle survival in the United States including the Gulf of Mexico. Every year, the shrimp trawl fishery captures and kills thousands of sea turtles, including the critically endangered Kemp's ridley. Migration of the Kemp's ridleys in the shallow waters of the Gulf coast coincides each year with shrimp fishing. Although law enforcement efforts are present, many more inspections must be done to find those shrimpers who are not using Turtle Excluder Devices (TED) or who are using them improperly.

"Better law enforcement by both state and federal agencies is only part of the answer," said Steinhaus.

"Another simple step that would save thousands of ridleys would be closing shrimping in state waters during the nesting season."