This story originally appeared on Houston Public Media.
Joe Flanagan, chief veterinarian at theHouston Zoo, is on a boat about 25 miles offshore from Galveston. He’s directing a team of researchers as they prepare to release turtles into the water.
The animals often get caught by fisherman, and the group rescues and rehabilitates them. On this trip, they released eightKemp’s ridley, an endangered species of sea turtles.
“We are actively trying to bring them back, and all of us have a responsibility in protecting our habitat,” Flanagan says.
He says large populations nest in the Gulf of Mexico, but their numbers have beensteadily declining. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is still assessing if some of that decrease stems from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.
Flanagan says protecting the Kemp’s ridley’s natural habitat is key to recovery.
“So they’re putting out recycling bins for fishing line,” he says. “They’re putting up signs that say, ‘if you see a turtle call this number.’”
Flanagan says he thinks awareness is growing.