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RECON the Kemps ridley sea turtle

In 1961, a now famous home video filmed in 1947 documented 40,000 Kemp’s ridley females nesting simultaneously in a single day at Rancho Nuevo, arribadaMexico. This mass synchronized nesting, called an arribada, was unknown by scientists until that time. By 1966 the Kemp’s Ridley nests on the Mexican beaches were protected from the heavy human exploitation that had reduced their hatchling numbers but only 2,000 females nested that year. In 1985 only 702 nests were found. Accidental capture of turtles by shrimp trawls were identified as the major source of adult turtle mortality and in 1994, legislation passed requiring the use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) on all shrimp boats in U.S. and Mexican waters. Thanks to these conservation efforts, the Kemp’s ridley is back from the brink of extinction and 21,144 nests were documented in 2009.

The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle seldom nests on local beaches but a large juvenile population spends close to nine years feasting on spider crabs in Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor before going off to join the adult mating population, with the nesting arribada happening from the south Texas coast to Veracruz, Mexico. Protecting the health and water quality of our local estuary protects this critically endangered species of turtle.


In celebration of 20 years of sea turtle monitoring, SCCF became a sponsor this summer for Kemp’s ridley research being conducted by Mote Marine Laboratory and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.  More than 400 Kemp’s ridley turtle sightings or captures have been recorded in Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound. Sub-adult Kemp’s are the dominant sea turtle species in our back bay waters.
recon2 release
On September 21, a Kemp’s ridley named RECON was fitted with a satellite transmitter by researchers Dr. Tony Tucker of Mote Marine and Jeffery Schmid of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. With SCCF staff in tow, RECON was released back into Pine Island Sound and daily transmissions of RECON’s whereabouts were received... for about a month. That’s science!

So on October 26, RECON2 was released (photo right) and at writing time has cruised out through Blind Pass and is just off the Sanibel beaches. Did RECON2 leave the back bay because water temperature dropped? Maybe red tide chased Recon 2 out of the back bay. Did the water releases from Lake Okeechobee reduce salinity levels too much? Is Recon following the food…are the spider crabs moving?

You can track the daily movements of RECON2.   RECON was chosen as the name in honor of SCCF's RECON (River, Estuary and Coastal Observing Network) sensors.  Learn more about the sensors.

Photos:  Right above, Jeff Schmid of Mote releasing RECON2 in October.  Below left:  RECON2's track.  Below right:  SCCF's Dee Serage and Amanda Bryant releasing RECON in September.

recon2 mapdee amanda recon1