Sea Turtle Relocation
A recent article (July 2017) mischaracterized one of the protocols being employed for the project to minimize the risk to protected sea turtles. Relocation trawling is a technique used to keep sea turtles out of the path of the dredges constructing the project. The article stated that the contractor has “accidentally snagged 65 sea turtles since work began in May…” While 65 turtles have been safely relocated during the project, the specially outfitted vessels trawling in the borrow area didn’t accidentally snag them. The purpose of this operation is to safely relocate turtles away from the dredges to avoid injury and is mandated by the Dept. of the Army permit. Furthermore, the article goes on to state that “observers on board the dredges have tagged and released (65 turtles)…” This gives the impression that these turtles are coming into contact with the dredge, which is false. The relocation of the turtles is being done by the crews on board the trawlers who are National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)-approved Endangered Species Observers.
The number of turtles that were anticipated to be relocated by NMFS for this project was based on historical estimates from other projects in the region. Although the project has exceeded the anticipated number of relocations, we see this is a very positive reflection of the health of the species. The fact that we are encountering far more animals than historical numbers suggested is a good thing. The relocation trawling is being overseen by NMFS-approved observers, who are collecting a lot of great data that will help to better manage these important species.
During the Duck, Kitty Hawk, Southern Shores, and Kill Devil Hills projects, N.E.S.T. (Network for Endangered Sea Turtles) will be monitoring the beaches. Nesting surveys will take place every morning from sunrise to 9 a.m. N.E.S.T volunteers will drive the entire length of the project area to identify any sea turtle nests.
In addition to the morning surveys, a N.E.S.T. volunteer will be on site at night monitoring the construction area for turtles. If a sea turtle is observed, work will be stopped within 500 feet of the turtle. If a turtle lays a nest, work will not resume within 500 feet of the nest until the nest has been relocated.
For more information about sea turtles and the beach nourishment project, click here.