“Public viewings of Kemp’s ridley sea turtle hatchling releases are back! The first public releases in two years are scheduled at the Malaquite Visitor Center at Padre Island National Seashore on July 23-24 and Aug. 4-6.
Public releases are also under scrutiny and could be canceled in the future due to budget concerns. The program has been cut back and large grants returned at the direction of Superintendent Eric Brunneman, who came to the park in March 2020. In the past, hatchling releases occurred more frequently, with several dozen events staged over the hatch season of mid-June through August. A review of the 40-year program done in June 2020 stated that the Division of Sea Turtle Science and Recovery was headed for budget shortfalls in the next three to five years. Program chief and internationally recognized turtle expert Dr. Donna Shaver, who has been with the NPS program throughout those years, was not included in the review process. Changes to the program included a budget cut of 30 percent from $2 million and eliminated “short-term project funding,” such as grants, for long-term operational costs. Shaver had secured about $700,000 in grant money for the budget. Other changes that could harm turtle populations include cutting staff time by limiting the number of public hatchling release events and reducing the number of beach patrols to spot laying turtles.
After the report was released, Shaver filed a complaint with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a Maryland-based environmental nonprofit.”