GULF BREEZE, Fla–(ENEWSPF)–July 23, 2010. Gulf Islands National Seashore excavated the first Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle nest in a unit of the National Park Service at 6 p.m. EDT today at the Seashore’s Fort Pickens area. The nest was located on the south side of Fort Pickens Road near the easternmost parking area.
“The excavation and relocation of a sea turtle nest to another site to be hatched and released is unprecedented for the National Park Service,” said Acting Seashore Superintendent Nina Kelson. “It is especially significant as this is a Kemp’s Ridley nest, the species that is the rarest of all the endangered sea turtles found along the Gulf coast.”
Eighty-nine eggs were retrieved for relocation. The National Park Service, along with conservation partners collaborating in this effort, believes that newly hatched sea turtles stand a better chance of survival if relocated to areas less affected by the Deepwater Horizon (MC252) oil spill. The final release location has yet to be determined but it will be on the east coast of Florida, Kelson said.
The excavation and transport was coordinated by National Park Service biologists in cooperation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The eggs are being transported by Federal Express, using a specially designed trailer. The eggs will arrive within 24 hours of their excavation to a NASA incubation facility near Cape Canaveral.
Of special interest for this nest is that, prior to laying her eggs, the mother turtle was found on Fort Pickens Road by Seashore staff, and needed to be redirected back to the beach.
The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle is a species designated as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Populations of sea turtles have been in decline in recent years. Preserving their habitat and giving their eggs an opportunity to hatch is critical to the future of the species.
Currently there are ten other sea turtle nests within the Florida District of the Seashore. All are slated to be relocated in the coming months.