PxPixel
Black Sea Turtles Released - Sail Magazine

Black Sea Turtles Released

Tiny flippers propelling them forward through loose sand, forty-four newly hatched Black Sea Turtles, raised their heads as if sniffing or listening to the waves, and scrambled down the steep dune into a daunting pounding surf. It was just before sunset, December 30, on a long stretch of undeveloped beach outside Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, (Mexico). More than 30 adults and children, local
Author:
Publish date:

Tiny flippers propelling them forward through loose sand, forty-four newly hatched Black Sea Turtles, raised their heads as if sniffing or listening to the waves, and scrambled down the steep dune into a daunting pounding surf. It was just before sunset, December 30, on a long stretch of undeveloped beach outside Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, (Mexico). More than 30 adults and children, local residents and visitors, kneeled at the top of the steep dune, whispering, laughing, and cheering as the newborns, they had just placed on the sand, determinedly made for the vast Pacific.

The tiny turtles, just over an inch across their backs, will cling to kelp and float into bays as they grow to maturity. They may swim several thousand miles and eventually reach up to 4 feet in length and nearly 300 pounds.

The question being asked is why are these the first Black Sea Turtles, to be born on this particular beach, as far as anyone can remember? The answer may be beach development or it may be that the mother turtle who laid these eggs was the sole survivor of Black Turtles born here 15 to 20 years ago. For generations throughout Central America, turtle meat and eggs have been considered delicacies, and turtle poaching continues despite Mexican turtle protection laws passed in 1990.

Todos Santos, some 50 miles north of Cabo San Lucas sits astride the Tropic of Cancer on the Pacific side of the nearly 1000 mile long Baja Peninsula. Miles of pristine beaches lie just outside this small but growing international art, and surfing colony, unlike nearby Cabo where condos, time shares, and all-inclusive resorts crowd a waterfront covered with ATV tracks and sunbathing northerners.

Along with Black Turtles, threatened Olive Ridley and endangered Leatherback Turtles, lay eggs on this stretch of beach, under the watch of local leaders and volunteers.

The story of these particular Black Sea Turtles, (Chelonia mydas agassizii), considered by some biologists a sub-species of the Atlantic Green Sea Turtle, but designated as a distinct and endangered species by groups such as Sea Turtle Inc., began as a surprise 55 days earlier, when volunteers with Tortugueros Las Playitas, discovered a female Black digging her nest. Fifteen days later the same turtle came ashore and laid another 50 eggs in a new nest. Each time the volunteers gathered the eggs and moved them into a temperature controlled “invernadero” (greenhouse) to incubate.

Enthusiasm for the protection programs has grown steadily, with public releases, and involvement of local ranchers, fishermen and students. Volunteers patrol 35 kilometers of beach every night during nesting season, not only to collect eggs but to ward off poachers. When eggs begin hatching emails circulate announcing the releases, again drawing from the local and ex-pat community.

As the sun dipped on the Pacific, local rancher and President of Grupo Tortugueros Las Playitas, Francisco Cota, drew a line in the sand at the top of the dune, while Fran Dvorak, one of the resident activists, exhorted the eager crowd to “wash” their hands with sand to remove any contaminants before holding a hatchling and then to release within a very few minutes.

Hands reached out, turtles squirmed, names were given, and the race began as children and adults emotionally cheered or quietly urged their turtle toward the sea. Even as waves picked them up, flipped them over, shoved them halfway back up the dune, the turtles scrambled onward. The last turtle was engulfed by the waves as the sun set.

The hope is that next year more Black Turtle females will scramble ashore to nest, here, and 15 to 20 years from now, mature females from this group will return to build nests where they were released.

For further information, please visit todostortugueros.org

Related

Josie-helm-2

Chartering the U.S. and Spanish Virgins

Flying into Tortola in the British Virgin Islands one December morning, three months after Hurricane Irma, I felt like a war correspondent dispatched to the battlefront rather than a sailing magazine writer on an assignment to go cruising.As my LIAT plane descended toward Beef ...read more

Crew-North-27M004

Weather Gear for Inshore Sailing

Just because you’re not planning on braving the Southern Ocean this summer doesn’t mean that you won’t have some dicey days out on the water. If you haven’t got the right gear, a little rain or humidity can make things miserable. As with all safety equipment, “it’s always better ...read more

atlantic-cup-trailer

2018 Atlantic Cup Video Mini-Series

Atlantic Cup 2018: TrailerThis past spring, SAIL magazine was on-hand to document the 2018 Atlantic Cup, a two-week-long Class 40 regatta spanning the U.S. East Coast and one of the toughest events in all of North America. The preview above will give you a taste of the four-video ...read more

3DiNordac_webheader

3Di NORDAC: One Year In

One year ago this month, North Sails launched a cruising revolution with the introduction of 3Di NORDAC. The product promised to deliver a better cruising experience for a market that had not seen true product innovation in over 60 years. Today we’re celebrating the team that ...read more

HB96k_EP

Sea Eagle’s HB96 inflatable SUP

What SUP?Dinghies and kayaks are all very well, but there’s nothing like a stand-up paddleboard for exploring interesting new shorelines while giving you a good workout. Sea Eagle’s HB96 inflatable SUP makes a fine addition to your boat’s armory of anchorage toys, either on its ...read more

DSC_0031-43

Charting the USVI and Spanish Virgins

When my friends and I booked a one-way bareboat charter with Sail Caribe, starting in the U.S. Virgin Islands and finishing in Puerto Rico, we were a little nervous about what we would find in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria—even seven months later.When our plane ...read more

SailRepairKit

Know How: Sail Repair Kit

Despite your best efforts, there will inevitably be times when your sail gets damaged while at sea and needs to be repaired. First, no matter what the job, you will need to do a quick damage assessment, a task that requires a flat wooden surface, sharp scissors and a helping ...read more

01-061018ROAC-8149

Coming of Age at the Atlantic Cup

Midway through the final race of the inshore portion of the 2018 Atlantic Cup, the three boats in the lead—Mike Dreese’s Toothface 2, Mike Hennessy’s Dragon and Oakcliff Racing, representing the Long Island Sound-based sailing school of the same name—suddenly broke free from the ...read more

01_silken_2018-03-08-0052

North U’s Regatta Experience Program

“Want to check the keel?” North U Coach Geoff Becker calls to me from back by the transom. We’ve just suffered our worst finish in the regatta and are absolutely flying on our way back to shore, spinnaker up and heeling at an angle that feels like maybe we’re tempting fate. ...read more