Bee hatch

1st sea turtle nest found on Mississippi beach since 2018

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FILE – In this May 2, 2010 file photo, Justin Main, a researcher with the Marine Mammal Science Institute, takes pictures of a dead sea turtle on the beach in Pass Christian, Mississippi. Beach crews have found the first sea turtle nest on mainland Mississippi in four years. . A Harrison County Sand Beach crew cleaning up found what appeared to be turtle tracks just east of Pass Christian Harbor, officials said. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)

PA

Beach crews have found the first sea turtle nest on mainland Mississippi in four years.

A Harrison County Sand Beach crew cleaning up found what appeared to be turtle tracks just east of Pass Christian Harbor, officials said.

They secured the area and called the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, who followed the tracks to a nesting site that is now marked off with stakes and duct tape.

The eggs likely belong to a protected loggerhead sea turtle or an even rarer Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, which is the most endangered species of sea turtle, said Moby Solangi, president of the marine studies group.

The exact species of turtle will not be known until the eggs hatch in 50-60 days. Only about 1 in 10,000 sea turtle eggs reach adulthood. Turtles lay between 60 and 100 eggs in a nest and have multiple nests over the course of a season, Solangi told the Sun Herald in Biloxi.

It is the first sea turtle nest on mainland Mississippi since 2018, although there have been unofficial reports of nests on uninhabited barrier islands, officials said.

The Mississippi Strait and the Gulf of Mexico are important habitats for sea turtles, but the 2010 oil spill and the 2019 opening of the Bonnet Carré spillway hurt the turtle population, Solangi said.

“After all the environmental disasters we have experienced, this is a good sign. When (turtle populations) have declined, it means the ecosystem that supports them is in trouble. When animals start reproducing, it means things have started to improve,” Solangi said.