News Release

Rarest Sea Turtle Nests on Queens Beach

Three Kemp's ridley hatchlings heading toward the ocean
Turtle Squad Heading to Sea

Jason Wickersty, NPS

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News Release Date: October 1, 2018

Contact: Daphne Yun, 718-815-3651

Queens, N.Y. – Ninety-six hatchlings of the world’s most endangered sea turtle crawled out to sea this week on West Beach on the Rockaway Peninsula located within the Gateway National Recreation Area (Gateway), National Park Service (NPS).
Kemp’s ridley is the smallest of all sea turtles and critically endangered. It was listed in the United States as endangered throughout its range in 1970.

These sea turtles are found primarily in the Gulf of Mexico. Juveniles, probably carried by currents, can be found as far north as Nova Scotia along the Atlantic Coast. This is the first recorded case of a Kemp’s ridley nesting and depositing eggs in New York State, according to Maxine Montello, rescue program director, Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.

On July 12, 2018, beachgoers observed a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle exiting the water and crawling up the beach and excavating a nest, according to Patti Rafferty, chief of resource stewardship for Gateway.  NPS later excavated the nest to save the nest from extreme high tides. Staff were able to save and incubate 110 eggs. Hatchlings were later released back at West Beach.

The hatchlings’ successful journey was made possible through the cooperation of several agencies and environmental groups. Along with USFWS, Padre Island National Seashore, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, as well as the Silver Gull Beach Club, a NPS concessioner, assisted Gateway in the protection of the Kemp’s ridley nest.

“Our partners made a big difference in securing and monitoring the nest. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be here today celebrating this success,” said Jen Nersesian, superintendent for Gateway.

The decline of Kemp’s ridley and other sea turtles has been due primarily to human activities such as harvest of adults and eggs and capture in commercial fishing gear. Coastal development decreases habitat for shore nesting species, such as sea turtles and shore birds. For sea turtles, lights associated with development are a particular problem. Female turtles will avoid well-lit beaches and lights disorient hatchlings.

Gateway National Recreation Area contacts:
  • Patti Rafferty, chief , resource stewardship, (718)815-7180; cell: (631) 605 -5680;
  • e-mail us
  • Brenda Ling, public affairs officer, (718) 815-3652; cell (347) 216-0395,
  • e-mail us
  • Daphne Yun, public affairs specialist (718)815-3651; cell (917) 282-9393,
  • e-mail us
  • Donna J. Shaver, Ph.D., chief, division of sea turtle science and recovery, Padre Island National Seashore, (361)949-9134,
e-mail us

Additional partner information and contacts:
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has responsibility in the U.S. to advise land managers on how to protect Kemp’s ridley nests and nesting habitat. The Long Island Field Office of USFWS consulted with NPS for the protection of this Kemp’s ridley nest and hatchlings.
  1. Steve Sinkevich, senior fish and wildlife biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (631) 286-0485, ext. 2121; e-mail us
  2. Meagan Racey, public affairs specialist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (413) 253-8558; cell: (413) 658-4386 e-mail us
  • New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) provided technical expertise and equipment for monitoring and protection of the nest and hatchlings.
  • The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation (RFMRP) is the primary rescue team and the sole rehabilitation facility for sea turtles in New York State. The RFMRP assisted with nest location and enclosure, as well as providing technical expertise for protection of the nest and hatchlings.
  1. Maxine Montello, rescue program director, RFMRP, (631) 369-9840, ext. 106;
  2. RFMRP’s 24 Hour hotline to report any sea turtle sighting in New York State: (631) 369-9829.

About Gateway National Recreation Area

Gateway is a large diverse urban park with 27,000 acres in New York City and New Jersey. Gateway combines recreational activities with natural beauty, wildlife preservation, military history and more. Visitors can learn about forts, hike, or camp overnight in the New York metropolitan area. For more information about Gateway visit our web site at


Last updated: October 3, 2018

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