Sunday, August 5, 2012

Playing with Fish Guts Again

For anyone who doesn't know I worked for Hubbs Seaworld Research Institute for a couple months after graduation and before returning to Costa Rica. While I was there I was a fish tech for the white sea bass fish hatchery. I learned a ton, but I also had to touch a lot of dead fish. The experience there made me totally prepared for what I did for PRETOMA yesterday.

Friday afternoon we received our first volunteers, Laura and Kristy, to Costa De Oro. So I took the girls on a short patrol to the north and the boys went to the south. We returned to the house 2 hours later without seeing a turtle, but very exhausted after such long day working in the hatchery.  So we all went to bed by 10pm knowing  we would have to get up at 430AM to help measure fish.

Looking across the river at the fishing village.
At 4:30 AM Matt, Victor and I woke up, ate some cereal, drank some cold coffee and were out the door. We had to walk about 3km south to the large estuary, but when we got on the beach we realized the tide was still coming in and it would be nearly impossible to continue without getting hit by waves. We decided to cut back onto the road continue from there. Little did we know the road was going to be as beautiful as it was. It was full of wildlife and flowers. When we finally got back on the beach and to the estuary it was just before 6AM. Right then we got a phone call from Erik, the sustainable fisheries coordinator  from PRETOMA we were going to meet up with, saying he was going to be a little late since the boat got stuck in some rocks.

Fishing boat
Around 7:30 we see the boat coming into the mouth of the estuary navigating through the large surf.  The boat comes and picks us up and minutes later we are across the river where a group of locals are waiting to help clean the fish before they are packaged for market. However our job is to help Erik take measurements of 3 different types of fish Red Snapper, Yellow-tailed Red Snapper and a Jackfish.

They caught an eel too.
Erik pulls out a table and scale and he measures the fish's length and weight. Then comes the fun part. He removes the gonads and determines sex, maturity and then weighs the gonads. Afterwards, all the organs are ripped out of the fish and it is weighed again. All of this is recorded for about 50 fish. While doing this Erik explains that PRETOMA is helping the local fishermen obtain a certificate to become the first sustainable fishery operation in Central America.  With this certificate the local fishermen can gain higher dollar for their fish. Erik also explains all the fishing is done by hook and line, not net, so its much safer for turtles. After 2 hours of working with the fishermen they give us some of the by-catch and we are taken home in the PRETOMA truck.

At 1 AM we went out on patrol, Victor, Laura and I went to the south and about 500m from the house we see a turtle track. We collect 96 eggs and continue on our patrol without seeing another nest. When we get back to the house we place the eggs out in front of the house because the hatchery isn't ready yet. We head back to bed feeling a sense of accomplishment finding the first official nest at Costa De Oro.

Photo credits to Victor Maisano since my camera is broken again!

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