We left early on the second day to visit an estuary system as Xavier mentioned that we will have a better chance in seeing things early in the day, and he is completely right! Just a few minutes in the boat ride, we spotted a school of rays swimming. Everyone on the boat was really excited and we were all looking forward to seeing more marine wildlife and we were not disappointed! Minutes later, we spotted sea turtles and then dolphins. All of us were able to see the dolphins up close and that was amazing! Even being told by Xavier a couple of times and reading from different literature about the biodiversity of the area, I am still amazed by how bio-diverse the area is.
During our boat ride to the estuary, one of the captains Ernesto told us about the sea turtle monitoring group that he was involved in. He talked about how the Seri have hunt sea turtles for a very long time, however, they only hunt sea turtles by harpoons and they only take what they need. And the sea turtle population have been doing fine until in the 70s, when outsiders came to the area and hunt sea turtles by net, leading to a plummet of sea turtle population. The Seri received a lot of international pressure to stop hunting sea turtles and later in the 80s, hunting sea turtle has become illegal and now the Seri need special permits to hunt sea turtles and they can only do it for traditional purposes.
Through the conversation, Ernesto sounded like he does not agree with the Western way of conservation. He mentioned that even the Seri hunt sea turtle, they do it in a sustainable manner by using the least harmful way to hunt. They also only use sea turtles as food resources, rather than as a commercial product. This is very interesting and it challenges the way I think about conservation and it also corresponds to one of the articles we read for the class: A Challenge to Conservationists by Mac Chapin.
For example, in the article, the author talked about how indigenous people often have different agendas as conservationists in conserving and developing management plan for an area. Conservationists tend to immediately propose the area as a protected area that is completely off-limits to people. However, for many indigenous people, it is more important for them to use the area for resources, but still maintain the well-being of the area. It is very easy to impose what you think about an issue to people from other cultures without thinking about their cultural history and I think what Ernesto told us about the banning of sea turtle hunting is a perfect example of how different people from different cultures view the same issue differently and how imposing your own belief about something to another culture without considering the context may not be appropriate.
Other than that, Ernesto also mentioned that the youth and elders view Seri’s sea turtle culture differently and this often results in conflicts. Many Seri youth does not know much about their culture and there is a gap between traditional knowledge and the youth. Ernesto thinks it is important to help the youth learn about their own culture, especially about conservation. To end the conversation, Ernesto sang us a beautiful song in cmiique iitom. The song is used when they hunt sea turtles and it calls turtles to emerge from the water, particularly those of the right sizes. Even though I do not understand cmiique iitom at all, the song was very beautiful.
After another 10-minute boat ride, we arrived at a mangrove forest and Ernesto showed us around. We saw the fruit of mangroves that Seri harvest. Unfortunately, none of the ones we found are ripe enough for us to try. We also found clams and other interesting organisms within the mangrove forest. We continued to explore the area a bit before the tide is rising quickly. After a choppy boat ride back to Punta Redonda, everyone had a relaxing afternoon until we got together for dinner with some of the Seri and then campfire where we had s’mores, following by an informational astronomy lesson from Xavier.