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World's smallest, most endangered sea turtle species seen hatching after decades of waiting

It's the first time the species has been seen hatching in Louisiana in over 75 years
Sea Turtle Nests Louisiana
Posted at 4:50 PM, Aug 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-17 22:15:43-04

The Kemp's ridley sea turtle has been spotted hatching on barrier islands in Louisiana, making it the first time in more than 75 years that the endangered species has been known to hatch there.

Crews had been monitoring a chain of barrier islands located 50 miles east of New Orleans called the Chandeleur Islands when they spotted the tracks of females leaving and returning nests. Workers with the state's coastal protection department were doing flyovers as part of a restoration project for the crucial barrier islands when they spotted hatchlings existing nests.

Chip Kline of the Louisiana Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority said, "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,” WVUE reported.

The news has brought a national spotlight on Louisiana and its conservation efforts for multiple species that nest on barrier islands.

“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,” Kline said.

This undated photo provided by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority in August 2022 shows a newly hatched Kemp's ridley sea turtle making its way out to the Gulf of Mexico from Louisiana's Chandeleur Islands. The world’s smallest and most endangered sea turtle is nesting in barrier islands east of New Orleans, La., for the first time in 75 years, officials said Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022. (Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority via AP)

Now activists and environmental workers are renewing a push to continue protecting the now vital Chandeleur barrier Islands of Louisiana, which host multiple threatened species.

Beth Lowell, vice president for the U.S. with the nonprofit Oceana said, “The endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle has returned to nest on the Chandeleur Islands, highlighting the need to protect this sensitive habitat so it can continue to be home to ocean and coastal wildlife in the future.” 

Authorities in Louisiana announced that the threatened loggerhead sea turtle is also nesting on the same barrier islands in the Gulf of Mexico, which is part of the Breton National Wildlife Refuge, the second-oldest national wildlife refuge in the United States, the Associated Press reported.