SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — It was a tough month for sea turtles.
April was described by Sea Turtle Inc. staff as being a “busy month.”
The nonprofit’s personnel were working to find stranded turtles, administer rehabilitation efforts and excavate eggs to incubate in hatcheries.
A total of 59 turtles were found stranded on the Island and the Boca Chica beach area last month.
Of those, 11 were admitted into Sea Turtle Inc.’s clinic for injury treatment.
The remaining 48 were found dead.
Observable injuries ranged from apparent predator attacks, entanglement, hooks and boat strikes.
Nina Nahvi, Sea Turtle Inc.’s licensed veterinary technician said the numbers are not necessarily something unusual.
“We contacted our people in Corpus Christi at the National Park Service and they looked at stats from years before and they’re actually not that out of touch with previous years,” she said.
“So it’s not significantly more turtles, there’s just a lot of live and dead turtles out there.”
According to Sea Turtle Inc. personnel, many stranded turtles dead or alive have either ingested plastics, been hooked or entangled in fishing line, ghost nets or other marine debris.
Additionally, “quite a few” stranded turtles have been affected by predators, potentially because of a shark boom.
“We’ve gotten several turtles with shark teeth marks on them so we’re not sure what’s causing the interaction, if it’s just the migration this time of year or because both populations are doing well,” Nahvi said. “Sometimes it’s a bit of a mystery to us.”
Currently, Sea Turtle Inc. is rehabilitating about 18 turtles.
Four turtles found in April were released by boat yesterday.
Nahvi said several more rehabilitated turtles will be ready to be released in the next few weeks.
“There are a few turtles that are going to be in longer-term rehabilitated care due to more extensive injuries, but overall it’s going well,” she said. “It’s always great to release rehabilitated sea turtles.”
What can people do to help?
Due to the influx of patients Sea Turtle Inc. has been receiving, it results in money spent on medical expenses.
According to Sea Turtle Inc. personnel, the blood lab expense for the month of April was more than $800.
“Blood work can be pretty expensive and just all of the daily food, medication administration and things like that,” Nahvi explained. “We are a nonprofit so one nice way to donate money to us is through a symbolic adoption.”
Adopters can choose from a variety of options including hatchling, patient and resident adoptions.
Nahvi said there are also several simple changes people can make to help protect sea turtles such as reducing single-use plastic consumption, picking up trash, recycling and disposing trash and fishing line properly.
“We see turtles that are hit by boats, entangled in fishing line and defecate plastic,” she said. “So, it’s one thing to get a turtle in from a natural issue like a predator bite or something like that, but to see animals come in strictly because of human impact is really difficult.”
Beachgoers who come across injured, entangled, stranded or nesting sea turtles are encouraged to call Sea Turtle Inc.’s emergency hotline at (956) 243-4361.
What the county is doing to help
In terms of maintaining beach upkeep, County Parks Director Joe E. Vega said his maintenance department begins handpicking beach trash and washed up debris before sunrise on a daily basis.
Vega said parks personnel work closely with Sea Turtle Inc. in regards to stranded sea turtles.
Every year, the county’s beach maintenance department and lifeguards attend a training by Sea Turtle Inc., which educates personnel on how to identify stranded sea turtles, nests and their tracks in the sand.
“If our employees are out there maintaining the beach and they see a stranded sea turtle, the first thing we do is make sure we contact Sea Turtle Inc. immediately,” Vega explained. “We want to do whatever it takes to protect our sea turtles.”
Additionally, Vega said informational signs have been placed near dune walkovers at county beach accesses four, five and six, which advise beachgoers to call Sea Turtle Inc. if they discover nests or stranded sea turtles.
“This is an exciting time of the year for sea turtles and we hope the number of nests increases every year,” Vega said. “We take great pride in trying to keep them safe.”
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
A total of 59 sea turtles were found stranded on Island and Boca Chica Beach areas last month.
Several rehabilitated turtles will be ready for release in the next few weeks.
Sponsors can choose between resident sea turtles at the facility, current patients, hatchlings, or sea turtle nests to symbolically adopt.
Beachgoers who come across nests or stranded sea turtles, are encouraged to call Sea Turtle Inc.’s emergency hotline at (956) 243-4361.