Alternate Title

Site Specificity and the Impact of Recreational Fishing Activity on Subadult Endangered Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles in Estuarine Foraging Habitats in the Northeastern Gulf of Mexico


Eighty-nine subadult Kemp's ridley sea turtles, Lepidochelys kempii, captured incidentally to recreational or commercial fishing, were tagged and released between 1991 and 2003. Of 105 captures and recaptures, 74 were by recreational hook and line, 20 were by commercial trawling, and 11 were by other means. Captures ranged from 3 to 25 per year. Ten turtles were recaptured once and two were recaptured three times. Times from release to recapture ranged from 3 wk to 20 mo. Three head-started turtles from Padre Island, Texas were taken after being at large for 13 to 30 mo. Head-started turtles are hatched in captivity and released as juveniles. Evidence suggestive of site fidelity is presented. Turtles associated with heavily used fishing piers were most prone to recapture and showed little growth relative to turtles not associated with recreational fishing piers. Although hooks passed through the intestine successfully in most cases, seven turtles developed intestinal blockage that required surgery and extensive rehabilitation. Public fishing piers should have a plan for dealing with hooked turtles if they are located in estuarine areas used by Kemp's ridleys as foraging habitat.