We saw eleven Sea Turtles yesterday! Normally I would be ecstatic as we usually see one or two turtles during a dive to see eleven of these graceful and serene creatures would be amazing. Photo Credit Rod Dillon
Sadly, we were not diving, we were walking along a 1.5 km stretch of beach the morning after a high tide. My stomach lurched as I realized that the oddly shaped rock was a large and very dead turtle. It and the next one appeared to be only recently dead and lay flipped over on their backs. My instinctive reaction was to think the worst and blame human perpetrators, I had only just found out that the beach here at Playa Uverito, Panama is a turtle-nesting beach. Sadly many of the eggs never get a chance to hatch, as they are collected and sold as a delicacy. Would these same people stoop so low as to flip a turtle over and leave it stranded helpless to die a slow death? By the time we found the sixth turtle, we realized there was something else going on here. All the bodies were in different stages of decomposition, many had been dead long enough for the flesh to shrink away and the shells to flake.
Eleven turtles were found on the beach that morning, they appeared to be Olive Ridley and maybe some Hawksbill’s a critically endangered species. I stumbled back to our apartment fighting back the tears and feeling sick. What are we (humans) doing to our world and its creatures? More importantly, what had happened here, where they caught on long lines and just dumped into the ocean as a useless by catch or was it something else? With a little research, we found various reports on the frightening phenomena that is causing hundreds of dead turtles to wash up on Central Americas shores. The consensus appears to be that the turtles are dying of toxins, probably caused by a red tide. Dogs that ate turtle carcasses in El Salvador died shortly afterwards. Why this red tide should be so disastrous when others have been and gone without the same harmful impacts is yet to be discovered. Turtles are already under threat, only one in a thousand eggs makes it to adulthood, they then have to risk the perils of coming ashore to nest, where they are at risk from predators and poachers. Once the hatchlings make it to the seas they encounter the perils of our throw away lifestyles, floating plastic bags are mistaken as jellyfish, a turtle’s favorite food. Many dissected turtles carcasses contain large amounts of plastic clogging their intestines and bowels. Turtles are caught on long lines and in the long dragnets popular with fishermen, air breathers they drown once they become entangled. Now they are under threat from yet another source. I can only wonder what damage we have done and are doing to our planet. It is time we woke up and stopped killing our world. By killing our oceans, we are killing ourselves, we are tied together. Our children and grandchildren cannot live with a dead world and our world cannot live without its oceans.