By Robert Nixon, South Padre Island Chapter
International Surfing Day began with a tremendous if not miraculous surprise this year. I got to Isla Blanca Park on South Padre Island, TX around 7:15 in the morning and started lugging all the tents and tables to the beach. On the second trip I noticed 2 or 3 people looking down and poking at something about 20 feet away from me. I went over to them and, to my astonishment, saw 15 or twenty brand new hatched sea turtles scurrying for the water! I started to look around for the nest and almost stepped on another solo turtle that I thought was dead but as soon as I leaned down he hauled ass to the water!
I called our Chair, Stuart Diamond, and asked him to call Sea Turtle, Inc. About twenty minutes later, Texas Parks and Wildlife showed up and began looking for the nest. They found it right in front of the seawall at the first parking lot! They collected 50 or more eggs and carried them off to safety. They then released them later that day in a safer area.
This event was incredible for two reasons! The first being that the nest survived in Isla Blanca Park for the 40-60 days it took for the hatchlings to emerge. Anyone who has been there on a Saturday or Sunday knows that there are literally thousands and thousands of adults and children digging all about in the sand. The second reason this is amazing is how fortuitous it is for preserving Isla Blanca Park the way it is! With the documentation of a nest and the resulting implication that turtles come to nest there, it will make it very difficult for any large scale development to get permitted to come in and take over the park as has been attempted in the past.
Texas may get a bad rap for being a huge oil and gas state with no concern for environmental issues, but when it comes to sea turtles the state is on point! The Texas General Land Office is very reluctant to issue permits for construction and dune mitigation on beaches that are known turtle nesting areas and they require that all sand hauling and beach fill projects be suspended during the turtle nesting season!