State of Texas|
Office of the Governor
Mr. Todd Steiner
Sea Turtle Restoration Project
Post Office Box 400
Forest Knolls, CA 94933
Dear Mr. Steiner:
Thank you for your letter about protecting Kemp's Ridley sea turtles in Texas. I appreciate your concern for these endangered animals and am proud of our efforts to protect them.
Nesting populations for the sea turtles have increased 50 percent since 1997(1) and are expected to continue growing by 14 percent each year, (2) thanks to state, federal and international efforts. Because of these positive indications of the turtles' renewed health in the Gulf Coast, I will not call for the creation of a marine reserve off Padre Island at this time but will continue to monitor the sea turtles' recovery.
Since the 1980s, Texas and the United States have closed waters (up to 200 miles off Padre Island) to shrimping from mid-May to mid-July, which is the sea turtles' peak nesting period, (3) and nesting on Padre Island is increasing. But although Padre Island is home to more and more sea turtles' nests, more than 99% of all nesting still occurs in Mexico(4) near the Kemp's Ridleys' historic nesting beaches in Rancho Nuevo.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is working with federal officials to enforce the requirements that all shrimp nets be equipped with turtle excluder devices (TEDs), and Texas' game wardens have joined federal officials in patrolling federal waters and enforcing the TED requirement. (5)
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department also has created "Operation Game Thief," which offers a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person who illegally takes or mutilates a sea turtle.(6)
Our parks and wildlife are treasures that must be conserved for everyone to enjoy.(7) I appreciate your letting me know your views on this issue.
GEORGE W. BUSH
Post Office Box 12428 Austin, TX 78711
(512) 463-200 (Voice) (512) 475-3165 (TDD)