Sea Turtle Ecology

Turtle Tangling – Day 4
by -- April 28th, 2016

This morning we awoke bright and early at 5:45, which has become the routine, even for chronically late sleepers like myself. We divided up into our two groups to walk Resaca and Brava beaches and look for leatherback nests laid the night before. I really enjoyed the rocky sloping trail to Resaca beach yesterday, so I opted to walk that one again this morning. After climbing down rocks and winding through a bramble of tree branches. We emerged on a gorgeous beach bordered by lush green mountain formations. Although we didn’t find any nests, the Brava group did, which was exciting to hear about! After breakfast we set out for our third day on the boat with Carlos and his crew. We went to Manglar, where we had spotted a manatee on the first day. Since getting a manatee caught in the net would be disastrous, we did a 30 minute watch for manatee snouts emerging from the water to breathe, in order to check if there were any in the area. Luckily, no such snouts were sighted, and we put out the tangle net to catch green turtles. I started swimming the net and saw a large green turtle with 2 remoras under it get tangled toward the bottom of the net. I started pulling up the net to lift the turtle and then swam down to try to bring the very heavy and frantically flailing turtle up to the surface. However, while attempting to untangle the turtle I managed to tangle myself. The turtle then swam downward in an attempt to escape and pulled the net down, ripping one of my fins off. Luckily help was close by to retrieve my fin and finish untangling and bringing in the turtle while I untangled myself. This little mishap taught me the importance of working collaboratively with others to bring in turtles and the challenges of working with tangle nets. After the first turtle managed to bring in one more small green, with another narrowly escaping as I tried to reel in the net. We took the turtles back to the dock and measured, tagged, weighed, and photographed them as the team showed us on the previous days. Both turtles were new recruits (meaning they had not been captured before), which was exciting!

Working up a Green Turtle on Carlos’s boat

Suzie releases a turtle

Suzie releases a turtle

After a lunch break, we went back out to Manglar and the group brought in two mid-size greens, also new recruits! We then went to the fish and wildlife service offices for lectures on the island’s refuges, research, and conservation projects. After lecture we ran into a woman named Abbie who teaches at a school on the island. She told us a touching story of a little girl with terminal cancer who was able to have amazing experiences with the turtles of Culebra and the students from Abbie’s school. We all loved hearing from Abbie and she offered to have us come visit her classroom the following morning. She seems like an amazing woman and I really hope we have time to stop by! Today was absolutely awesome, like the previous days have been, and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

 

*All turtle work featured within the context of this course is authorized by Puerto Rico DENR and NOAA-NMFS.

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