Carl Safina: Conserving Sea Turtles of Abreojos

Editor’s Note: Carl Safina is a Pew Fellow, MacArthur Fellow, Guggenheim Fellow, writer of 5 books, ecologist, marine conservationist and member of One World One Ocean’s science advisory team. This is the third in a series he is writing from Baja Mexico this week.

Today Javier took us to a gorgeous estuary called Estero Coyote. There’s a little tourist place here called Camp Rene that has very cheap accommodations and was almost empty when we were there. But beautiful! The fishermen here grow oysters (they’re delicious and cost about 25 cents apiece).

Claudia and Javier Villivicencio with Carl Safina and turtle tagged for research.

The estuary is filled with migratory and nesting herons, shorebirds such as curlews, godwits and others, Ospreys, and fish. And Coyotes (we saw 3 on the sand flats in about an hour). And—sea turtles.

We set two gillnets and in a short while we had our hands on six turtles weighing between 50 and 170 pounds. We brought them to shore where Javier and his wife Claudia measured and weighed them. Javier let me measure and tag a couple. The numbered tags let them understand survival rates, travel distances, and where the turtles that come here to feed eventually go to nest.

Mexican Green Turtles—called Prietas here—are so dark they’re called black turtles. Those we caught were charcoal-colored with just a slight green cast.

Javier has now spent many years monitoring and protecting the turtles here. Turtles are protected by law in Mexico, but they’re still poached and sold on the black market. But for Javier and the fishermen here, they’re worth really protecting. This place has a reputation to uphold and the premium prices they get for their seafood depends on that reputation.

Mexican green turtles are actually almost black.

It must be working; the tagging shows that the turtles here are increasing in number, something that depends not just on local survival but on better protection all along Mexico’s west coast. (I saw and wrote about those protection efforts in my book, Voyage of the Turtle). For his efforts, working with Wildcoast and Grupo Tortuguero, Javier has received national recognition.

Bringing in a turtle to tag.

Javier and friend.

Carl Safina and Javier Villivicencio. Photo by Eddie Kisfaludy.



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