Sunday, September 23, 2012

Catching Turtles

At 7:30 in the morning Kayla, Victor and I are picked up by the PRETOMA truck and are taken to the Coyote Estuary where the PRETOMA boat is waiting for us. We were all excited because we were getting to partake in a new task with the sea turtles.

In Costa Rica it is very rare for  a Hawksbill turtle to nest, but there are a few locations where juvenile populations live; one of which is Punto Coyote. These turtles are critically endangered due to their beautiful shells that are used to make jewelry among other things.
The Captain and Erik untangling the net.

The plan for the day was to set a fishing net with very large holes out on the point and hopefully catch a couple Hawksbills, so we could tag, measure and place a GPS device on her. However, as the net was being placed, Erik explained the last time the net had been used there was a large storm and it was gathered quickly and might be quite tangled.

Turtle caught in the net.
Sure enough, it was a mess. As soon as the net was placed, we all put on our snorkeling gear and hopped in the water. We were instructed to be careful while untangling the net not to get ourselves caught in it, which is actually harder than it sounds due to wearing fins and  the visibility was pretty bad.

A half hour later the net was a good as it was going to get and we were back in the boat. While waiting to catch a turtle, we drove over to check on Caletas camp. We stalled around for 30 minutes before returning to the net to check if we caught anything, only to be left disappointed.  So we once again decided to wait another 20- 30 minutes before returning to the net again to find nothing.
By 10:45, we still hadn't caught a turtle and the tide was changing, so we decided to collect our net a come out again another day. However just a we were getting back to the net, we watched a turtle swim into the net. I couldn't believe it, after all this time I was finally going to get the to see a Hawksbill turtle!

Erik and Victor grabbed the net and started pulling the turtle towards the boat. Only as we got close to it could we see it wasn't a hawksbill, but an Olive Ridley, the same species I see everyday on patrol. Even though we were all disappointed it wasn't a Hawksbill, we still brought her onto the boat and tagged and measured her. After we all got a quick picture with the turtle, Erik and Victor helped lower her gently into the water and we all hoped to see her again soon on one of our nesting projects.

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