I got to experience something for the first time in my life today. I swore not to tell anyone where it happened (I'll explain in a minute). I'll let the pictures explain what I saw:
The Division of Fish & Wildlife tracks the turtle nests on Saipan. A Green Sea Turtle laid her eggs on this beach (which I have sworn to keep secret) about a month ago. Today DFW went back to check on the nest. I was invited to tag along.
The DFW officers are certified to handle the turtles. They dug out the nest, counted the egg shells, unhatched eggs, and the live and dead turtles. In this nest they found 15 live turtles, 6 dead turtles, and 106 eggs (hatched and unhatched combined). That means that out of 106 eggs laid, 100 turtles made it to the sea (85 crawled to the sea before the DFW officers dug out the nest). Only six died in the nest.
Dude, that's pretty sweet!
Even though sea turtles are a federally protected species, poaching is a problem on Saipan. Locals eat the eggs and the adult turtles. For this reason, the Division of Fish & Wildlife is very secretive with their turtle data. They are afraid that if they release certain data that they may be doing more harm than good.
If it was known what beaches hatched a lot of turtles, some people would say, "we need to protect these beaches so that we can have more turtles" while others would say "we need to go find those turtles so that we can have a BBQ."
Some people say that eating turtles is part of our culture. I can agree to that, but the need to preserve our culture needs to be balanced with the realities of our present economic system, one that is based on tourism.
Imagine if our dive operators could promise a turtle sighting on every single dive in Laulau Bay or if we could guarantee that a tourist visiting Saipan in April-May would see a nest of turtles hatching. How much would that be worth? How many tourists would flock here to see that? How much would they pay?
Want to help come up with a community driven plan to help protect sea turtles? Then come to Cafe at the Park this Thursday at 7 PM for a Micronesia Challenge meeting.
And just because I can, here's a video of one of the turtles swimming out to sea: