Hola Volunteers, Supporters and Friends ~
After three years of adverse weather along the beach, including our beach nursery, (see video below) we’ve decided to place as many nests in the box nursery as possible without compromising their safety. We plan to combine nests and/or load as many eggs as possible into each nest box. This will by no means affect the incubation process but will, in fact, create a healthier, stronger hatchling. Although the plan is not without its problems. Usually from late August to early October the box nursery fills to capacity and so far some 112 overflow nests have been placed within the beach nursery. Watch this YouTube video of the beach nursery being ripped apart by surging storm waves. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIltOtNhUdE&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL
The nest count as of October: The first group of twenty nests placed in the beach nursery hatched at 38% due to heavy rain in July and August. Over 504 nests were placed in the box nursery, while another 112 nests were placed in the beach nursery and 71 were either relocated to better areas or left in place on the beach. 26 were taken by poachers and one nest was washed out by waves, for a total of 734 nests. By the end of September we had released hatchlings from over 225 nests. Estimated total by the end of the season may rise to 990 to 1,020 nests.
After wiping out the entire marine turtle and fish population within the La Peñita/Rincon area, a couple of fishermen decided to stretch an illegal gill net just 50 feet off the shore of San Pancho. To make a long story short, a dozen townspeople and volunteers were pulling the net up onto the beach (see photo below) when the owners of the net arrived offshore in their boat, they grabbed the other end of the net and a tug-of-war ensued. We asked the fishermen to come ashore and talk but instead they tried to pull the net out of our hands. At that point we tied our end of the net to the trusty dune buggy and pulled their boat into shore. I can’t believe that anyone could be so insensitive as to stretch an illegal gill net across the front of a prime marine turtle nesting beach during nesting season. And what about the thousands of hatchlings that were trying to pass through that net on their way out to sea?
On the morning of the 26th a local volunteer, Pedro, found a nesting turtle with twelve feet of heavy fishing line hanging from its mouth (see photo below). They rushed her to the veterinarian in Sayulita but all the vet could do was cut the line as far down her throat as possible and then returned to San Pancho and released. Long line fishing is also illegal. These lines contain hundreds of 2” hooks baited with squid, a favored food of marine turtles. When a turtle is hooked, the fishermen losing the bait, will often club the turtle to death to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Don’t get the idea that all fishermen down here are criminals when it comes to preservation. There are many conscientious fishermen such as Juan Flores and his family. They has been helping us since the turtle project began in June, 1992.
Weather-wise: September is normally our wettest month, producing up to 33-50% of the season's total rainfall. However, the total this September was less than three inches, in any case there was no shortage of spectacular lightning displays. September was hot, with less humidity than expected. Daytime temps were in the high 80s° to low 90s°, night time temps were in the mid to high 70s°. For the past three months the river has pushed its way through the lagoon to end up in the sea around the malecon. Be careful when walking beyond the malecon after dark. There is a fifteen foot drop-off into water that doesn’t smell that good.
Volunteer-wise: Despite having few volunteers in September, we were able to get the job done thanks to an outstanding staff of hard workers. I could not get everyone in one spot at once, see photos below.
Town-wise: By September 23rd, the town celebration (San Pancho Days) was in full swing. On Saturday, the 24th, the music was so loud that several of our windows cracked. For me, the only good thing about the festivity that night was when the deafening roar finally stopped. But who am I to complain? At least 500 people a night have absolutely enjoyed the music, games, food and activities.
Tourist-wise the town is regressing back to what it was seven years ago without the tourists. Only one restaurant is open on the beach and most tourist shops and restaurants on the main drag are closed. The peso is at 13.35 to 13.65 per US dollar, regular gasoline is $2.70 and premium is $2.95 per gallon. (The relatively low price of gasoline in México is a result of the people owning Pemex and not a greedy, for profit corporation. Viva el Mexico!)
Frank D. Smith
Grupo Ecológico de la Costa Verde, A.C.
September 2011 Volunteers
Juan Florse Jr. Lisa Fisher
Jessica Schmidt. Joslin Bertrand Starlie Bertrand. Summer Bertrand Pedro Diza
Manuel Miramontes Dana Trahan Thomas Marhold Jessica Wallace Kate Killpack