Hola Volunteers, Supporters and Friends -
After traveling through seven states over seventy days, its good to be home and once again working on this season's marine turtle program. The trip north went well, spending five weeks in Dolores, Colorado, ten days in Stinson Beach/Big Sur, ten days at home in Idyllwild, one week in Las Vegas (family reunion), five days in Tucson, and three days on the road back to San Pancho, arriving on June 20th.
As mentioned in earlier newsletters, it was our original plan to leave the nests within the beaches to hatch naturally, perhaps in better nest locations if necessary. Unfortunately, our plans were to change shortly after Hurricane Kenna when we discovered that nearly 25% of the beach was washed inland and possibly lost forever. This displacement has caused the beach to drop two to three feet below normal, and narrow by 50 to 100 feet; thus, most incubating nests would be exposed or washed out by storm tides and/or beach erosion. In addition to these problems, deforestation of the local jungle has flooded the beaches with piles of driftwood washed from the mountains above. To the emerging hatchling, these piles could become a treacherous death trap, not to mention the problems they can cause the adults as they try to push through them.
Our plans for this season are much like last season; we will place as many nests in our nursery as possible, but when it is filled, we may have to leave some nests on the beach. To insure the safety of the beach nests, we will continue to work with homeowners and the hotel to keep lights from shining on the beach, work with the hotel to keep their horses from crushing the nests, and rake up and burn the piles of driftwood. On the other hand, not much can be done to correct the effects of storm tides and beach erosion but to hope for the best.
In any case, by the end of June the nursery was operational in my front yard. The new location is a major advantage over the beach setting, not to mention the possibility of another hurricane. At the top of the list are the milder inland weather as compared to the beach, resulting in better control of nursery temperatures, and the cutting of travel time. The disadvantages are few, transporting sand to and from the nursery is one, but personally I'll miss the old nursery and the casual evening visitors that would drop in during their beach walk.
Over the past six months the owners of small fishing boats along the Pacific coast of Mexico have adopted long-line fishing. This two to five mile long line is set with hundreds of large hooks baited with squid, one of the preferred foods of the marine turtle. Local fishermen assure me that their lines rarely hook turtles. Although a 35% drop in nests (from an average of 26 to 17 this season) has caused some concern, the fishermen's assurance is adequate for now. The lack of early nests has worked out with the scheme of things, as we have lost all e-mail contact with the next five volunteers, not that unusual either. The next volunteer is scheduled to arrive on July 25th from France; until then it's an exhausting job for one person.
Frank D. Smith
Grupo Ecológico de la Costa Verde, A.C.
Nursery Just before plastic cover was added.
Long-line fishing setup, San Pancho.