I was so happy to spot a barricaded sea turtle nest during my Memorial Day visit to Orange Beach, and thought it very promising that protection efforts were being made for these creatures even on the overly developed areas of the Flori-Bama coastline.
There are five species of sea turtles that inhabit the Gulf of Mexico waters – all of which are endangered; Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, green sea turtle, loggerhead sea turtle, leatherback sea turtle, hawksbill sea turtle. The biggest threat to these turtles is commonly listed as lack of nesting habitat and commercial fishing. The Orange Beach nest barricade made me wonder if any of these endangered sea turtles nested in Louisiana and what our home state was doing to help declining populations. This curiosity led me to hopeful news of the largest of the hard-shell turtles, the loggerhead.
According to the Louisiana Coastal Area Ecosystem Restoration Study’s 2004 Environmental Impact statement, “Although loggerheads have been documented as nesting on the Chandeleurs in 1962 and Grand Isle in the 1930s, it is doubtful whether this species currently successfully nests on the Louisiana coast.” However, in 2016 the Louisiana Sportsmen published an article about two loggerhead turtles that were discovered nesting in Grand Isle in 2015!
“It’s pretty historic in that it’s the first confirmed sea turtle nesting on the coast of Louisiana in over 30 years, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Mandy Tumlin, a biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries who serves as the marine mammal and sea turtle stranding and rescue program coordinator for the state. 30 years!! Because sea turtles return to their own hatch site to lay their eggs, it is likely that these loggerheads were nested and hatched in Grand Isle in the 80s (totally undetected). I emailed Mandy Tumlin this week to see if there was any updated information on more recent nests, and am waiting to hear back.
In the meantime, here are her tips on what to do if you see one of these federally protected loggerhead sea turtles this summer (active nesting times are April – August):
- Stay Back; Crouch Down Away from Them and Just Watch – they can hear, smell and see. Give the loggerhead mama space to find her right spot.
- Do not use flash photography or flashlights
- Don’t Let Kids Approach – sea turtles startle very easily and she’ll simply crawl back to the water and not nest there
- Respect the Nest Barricades – don’t throw things near the nest or let dogs dig near it
- Contact the Louisiana Fish and Wildlife Department with your Siting - If you see a loggerhead turtle on the beach later this summer, or think you found a crawl or nest in the sand, contact Mandy Tumlin at 337-962-7092 or 225-765-2377, or email her here.
On another hopeful note, as of April 2022, a new federal law has expanded the required use of Turtle Extruder Devices (TED) on all commercial fishing trawler and skimmer nets so that turtles are not continuously trapped and drowned in fishing nets. Louisiana was VERY slow to adopt regulation of the TED nets (designed and initially implemented in 1970!), but fortunately has recently made progress. This year the state will be offering financial assistance to local fishermen to update their gear and help protect our dwindling sea turtle population. Thank you, Louisiana, for getting on board to help save these majestic creatures! Read more about it in this Nola.com article.