Friday, April 06, 2012

Cavern of the Sleeping Turtle

I managed to fit in 6 dives during this trip to Saipan (Really only 5, but I'm counting my confined water training as a dive).  I saw turtles on almost every dive.  That's not normal.  It is rare to see so many turtles in so short a time here, in my opinion because they get eaten every time a certain someone in Tanapag gets the munchies.  Just this week there was a story going around the island that the enforcement guys from the Division of Fish & Wildlife were eating a turtle at a party.  You make the law, you break the law.

There are two species that are typically encountered around here.  The turtles in these photos are green sea turtles.  They are assessed by the scientists at IUCN as globally endangered.  I saw about 7 of them this week.  Less common are the hawksbill sea turtles.  They are assessed as critically endangered.  I swam with two of them this week, the first time I've ever seen them in Saipan (I've seen them in Palau before).

Swimming with these turtles is the conservation equivalent of interacting with giant pandas or lowland gorillas.  And it is totally awesome.  You should be jealous.  And that these still exist in any numbers around Saipan is simply amazing.  My father barely passed these down to me (his generation wasn't able to eat through the entire population despite their best effort).  I hope that I am able to pass them down to my kids.

I made another endangered friend during last night's dive.  Swimming along the wall I noticed this guy sticking his butt out of a cave.  I've only seen one or two (living) Napoleon wrasse on Saipan.  They get killed almost on sight by local spearfishermen, and it is rare for them to grow to any considerable size around here.

Lucky for me the cave had two entrances, and I was able to snap a few more photos of his better side.  Fishermen will kill this guy and sell him to the Chinese restaurants for $50.  It is so frustrating knowing that a dive shop can make $75 each day per person bringing people to see this fish.  He is more than just a scooby snack!


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