This state just found its first sea turtle nest since 2018

A sea turtle has nested on a Mississippi beach for the first time since 2018.

Harrison County Sand Beach crews found a sea turtle track just east of Pass Christian Harbor. They contacted the Department of Marine Mammal Studies, and staff went to check out the track. They confirmed the nest location and marked the area with stakes and flag tape.

“The area was clearly marked to protect the nest from damage by beach maintenance equipment while the eggs are incubating. We ask that the public refrain from disturbing the nest,” IMMS said in a Facebook post.

Sea turtles in Mississippi

The last time a sea turtle nested on the Mississippi mainland was 4 years ago.

“This is very good news since the various natural and man-made (BP oil spill, Bonnet Carre Spillway) disasters causing significant damage to the ecology and natural habitat of dolphins and sea turtles. It appears that IMMS’ efforts to rescue and rehabilitate sea turtles can yield results in the restoration of the species. The reproduction and nesting is a good sign of recovery, says Samia Ahmad, vice president and chief financial officer of IMMS.

There have been unofficial reports of nests on uninhabited barrier islands. When the eggs hatch, the crews can determine which species of turtle laid this nest.

Kemp’s ridley, loggerhead, and green sea turtles are found in Mississippi waters. This area in the northern gulf is an important habitat for juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, which are the most critically endangered sea turtles in the world.

IMMS has a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to survey the beaches and tag and monitor nesting activity in the state.

Sea turtle tracks on Harrison County Sand Beach

Sea turtle tracks on Harrison County Sand Beach

Photo credit: Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, Gulfport, MS

Nesting season for sea turtles

The nesting season for sea turtles runs from 1 May to 31 October. The Gulf of Mexico is home to five of the seven sea turtle species: green, leatherback, hawksbill, loggerhead, and Kemp’s ridley turtles.

Sea turtles use the beaches to host their nests during this time. The creatures emerge from the water in the middle of the night, dig a hole in the dry sand, lay their eggs, cover the hole and then return to the water. The eggs usually incubate 50 to 60 days before hatching.

Only about 1 in 10,000 sea turtle eggs reach adulthood. Turtles lay between 60 and 100 eggs in a nest and have several nests during the season.

About the Department of Marine Mammal Studies

The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies is a non-profit organization established in 1984 for public education, conservation and research on marine mammals in the wild and under human care. It is located in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Since 2010, it has responded to hundreds of strandings of live and dead sea turtles. It rehabilitates turtles and when they are healthy enough they release them back into the wild. Just before release, it tags the turtles so they can monitor them. Satellite tracking devices allow IMMS to track their movements and migrations.

To learn more about how you can protect sea turtles, check out:

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