Kemp’s Ridley endangered sea turtle lays eggs near the corner of Seawall and 86th Streets in Galveston

GALVESTON, TX (KTRK) — A Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle laid eggs after a nest was found in Galveston Island State Park about three months ago.

The video above is ABC13’s 24/7 live stream.

“The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle is one of the most endangered sea turtle species in the world, so every egg matters,” said Dr. Christopher Marshall, professor of marine biology at the Texas A&M University in Galveston, said.

“Much of the nesting habitat for the Kemp’s Ridley has been lost to storms, flooding and predators, making it important to move these nests to an environment where they have the best chance of surviving into adulthood,” Marshall said.

According to USACE, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) beach restoration project in the Galveston District helped make the nesting possible.

According to district operations manager Chris Frabotta, the sand used to fill in Babe’s Beach is provided by the district’s routine maintenance dredging of the Galveston Canal.

“This is all done to uphold the Corps of Engineers’ navigational mission of providing safe, reliable, efficient and environmentally sound navigational channels for commerce,” Frabotta said. “The County of Galveston pays for the dredging of the sandy material from the canal, while the (Galveston) Park Board and the Texas General Land Office share the costs involved in hauling the sand to the beach.”

USACE has populated the beach three times: first in 2015; then 2019; and most recently in the summer of 2021, Frabotta said. The sand is dredged from the Galveston Canal and then spread along the Galveston shoreline, primarily in the area known as Babe’s Beach. To date, USACE has placed approximately 1.7 million cubic yards of sand on Babe’s Beach.

The dredging routine keeps the canal deep enough to allow large ships to access port facilities in Galveston, Texas City and Houston.

“This is a new beach thanks to the Babe’s Beach Restoration Project, where we have no prior historical record of nests occurring,” said Theresa Morris, director of rehabilitation at Texas A&M’s Gulf Center for Sea Turtle Research.

When turtles nest on Galveston, Morris and her team dig up the entire clutch and bring it to Padre Island National Seashore for incubation and release, she said. “That’s because almost all of the nests in the upper Texas coastal zone would be flooded, destroyed, or predated if left in place.”

“We are very excited about this event,” said Morris. “As this project has brought new nesting habitat to an endangered species.”

Marshall said this species of sea turtle almost went extinct in the 1980s. If a nest were left on the beach, the eggs would have about a 45% chance of surviving. In an incubation facility, he said, survival rates can be as high as 95%.

“We’re really proud to know that the dredging and sand placement not only creates recreational opportunities for Galveston, but also benefits local marine life by providing more nesting sites for an endangered species,” Frabotta said.

The Turtle Patrol and the Gulf Center for Sea Turtle Research took the nest to an incubation facility on Padre Island National Seashore.

The next cycle of sand distribution at Babe’s Beach is scheduled for April 2023.

Pictures of the nest can be found on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Flickr page.

Copyright © 2022 KTRK-TV. All rights reserved. Kemp’s Ridley endangered sea turtle lays eggs near the corner of Seawall and 86th Streets in Galveston

Dais Johnston

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