Endangered sea turtles nesting Chandeleur Islands for first time in 75 years
So far more than 53 sea turtle crawls have been documented
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Environmental and manufactured changes have posed challenges for Louisiana’s coastal barrier islands.
However, life has again found a way in the Chandeleur Islands in the Gulf of Mexico, the state’s easternmost point.
For the first time in 75 years, endangered sea turtles have been observed nesting, according to the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.
CPRA and the Dept. of Wildlife report hatchlings of Kemp’s ridley turtles in the Breton National Wildlife Refuge.
“Louisiana was largely written off as a nesting spot for sea turtles decades ago, but this determination demonstrates why barrier island restoration is so important,” said CRPA Chairman Chip Kline. “As we develop and implement projects statewide, we are always keeping in mind what’s needed to preserve our communities and enhance wildlife habitat. Having this knowledge now allows us to make sure these turtles and other wildlife return to our shores year after year.”
CPRA and LDWF have been monitoring the islands closely since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and through recent tropical storms in the years since. The environmental agencies feel the discovery of turtles nesting there for the first time in three-quarters of a century helps make future restoration plans in the area clearer.
So far more than 53 sea turtle crawls have been documented and two live hatchlings have been observed making their way to the water.
The islands were discovered on Feb. 1, 1700, by explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville while he was sailing in search of the mouth of the Mississippi River along the Gulf Coast.
The islands have been generally shrinking since the late 19th century and a survey in the 1980s estimated that they would be in existence for about three more centuries. Hurricane Georges destroyed the islands in 1998, leaving the lighthouse out in the Gulf. The barrier islands have also experienced land loss at high rates ever since Hurricane Katrina struck on August 29, 2005, and rising sea levels in recent years.
“It is well known that the Chandeleur Islands provide key habitats for a host of important species; however, with the recent discovery of a successful Kemp’s ridley sea turtle hatching, the islands’ value to the region has been elevated,” said LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet. “We are gaining a better understanding of the benefits this barrier island restoration may provide in the recovery of this endangered species across the Gulf of Mexico.”
Federal research on crawl survey data also indicates loggerhead sea turtles are also nesting on the islands. When loggerheads were observed nesting in Grand Isles in 2015, it was the first time Louisiana had a confirmed sea turtle nesting in over 30 years.
Both Kemp’s sea turtles and loggerheads are federally listed.
Environmental agencies say they believe that additional nests on the islands may be discovered as they continue to monitor the area. The peak of sea turtle nesting season is June through July with the young hatching 50 to 60 days later.
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