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Wildlife
Help Protect the Turtles by Swimming with Them
By Emiliana Garcia

After giving it a fifth try, the female turtle tilted its large neck slightly to the right and closed its eyes. She was letting Mike know that he had been accepted. Mike held her carefully from her front flippers and placed his thumbs on the same spot on which the male turtle's flippers usually get hooked. Nonetheless, Mike does not plan on staying on top of her for five hours in order to reproduce, Mike just wants to "chat".

 

We are in front of the coast of Ostional, at approximately two kilometers offshore. There are eleven people on the 10 meter boat: seven tourists, the captain, Jose Morales, two young assistants, Cristian and Erick, and our guide and boat owner, Mike Pasky. We left from the San Juanillo Bay, at almost 3 pm and, after sailing for about an hour, we started seeing turtles everywhere. Alone or in pairs, surrounded by tuna or sardines, there they were. "To the right, to the left, in front" exclaimed José.

During the hour that we needed to sail those two kilometers offshore, Mike narrated the "life and work" of this species, which belongs to the list of endangered species. I had heard about a tour in which one could swim with turtles but my honorable sense of environmental awareness made me listen to Mike with a frown. "Are turtles not being bothered by this?, I wondered, "I am sure the noise from the motor affects them...how good can all of this be for them?", my conscience insisted.

“Many times… well, almost every day, we find a turtle that's in trouble. There is always some part of their body that is trapped in a net or that has a hook stuck in it, usually in the mouth. We bring these turtles on board, we cut the net or remove the hook and we apply antibacterial medication, but the sea is the best cure for their wounds", Mike explained, waving his arms as if it where all happening at the moment. "No one takes care of the turtles in the sea", he added, "we are one of the few crews who come out here often and, with the shrimp boats that come and go all day and night, it is the turtles and the fisherman who suffer the worst part. During the past seven years, I could easily say that we have found almost one thousand turtles in trouble and, although in the past three months only thirty were injured, they continue to be unprotected".


Captain Jose
 
Christian and Erick, the captain's assistants


The captain and his assistants, who are cousins and uncle among themselves, explain that fishing has become almost nonexistent. The shrimp boats are constantly vacuuming the ocean floor in order to catch the shrimp and lobsters, leaving nothing but sand in their wake. Before, you could fish 45 kilograms of red snapper during one night, now you come back with ten. Therefore, for José, the option of sailing in search of turtles with the possibility of earning money by doing so is much more enticing than fishing. I ask him if he is happy with this job, does he enjoy doing it? "I worked for the shrimp boats and cutting shark fins at the Isla del Coco, I was twelve and seventeen years old, respectively. I was kid who had no idea of what I was doing. Now I know and I like this much more", explains José while we watch the sunset on our way back to the bay.

When asked if I enjoyed the tour I can remember, in detail, every second of the dance that took place in the sea: Mike hypnotizing the turtle so that it would relax, then inviting us to come into the water. “Get in closer from behind", he said, "take her under the flippers and breath over her neck. That is the way in which the male withholds the female in order to mate”. I swim towards her, holding her gently as I exhale over her neck. She tilts her neck to the right and the magic of nature takes place. We are one in the vast enormity of the sea.

For more information visit: www.paskysadventures.weebly.com or call 2682-8103.

 

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