Of the seven species of sea turtles that exist in the world, five species hatch on Panamanian beaches.
Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea): Cataloged by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) as a vulnerable species, it is the only one that visits the Panamanian Pacific coast. Isla Cañas and La Marinera beach, in Azuero are the two places in which this phenomenon is recorded. These beaches are one of the few in the world where you can observe in the rainy season the arrival of turtles reaching the sand.
According to the experts, the turtles look for this zone in the Peninsula de Azuero (the northernmost point of Panama) because the continental shelf is shorter and the waters near the coast are deeper, in addition to the darkness of these places that facilitates the nesting.
In the area of the Pacific Riviera, Coclé, we count every year with the visit of very few Olive Ridley turtles. This year during the month of October 2018 in Buenaventura we counted 5 nests of this species on our beach, with an estimated 350 newborn hatchlings that successfully headed to their new home, the sea.
Importance of turtles in the ecosystem:
Sea turtles play a vital role in maintaining the health of the seas and oceans since, through their interaction with the environment, they can contribute to the productivity of the different marine-coastal ecosystems. The Leatherback sea turtle helps keep the level of jellyfish in the open sea controlled, since these are a predator of small fishes.
They are also considered an important attraction for tourism. There are coastal communities that every year receive thousands of visits to observe the spawning of the turtles.
However, despite the control units of the governments involved, the laws applied and the agreements, sea turtles are not sufficiently protected. Perhaps because there is no awareness of the seriousness of this ecological crime.
Why should we take care and protect them?
Of every thousand turtles that are born, only one reaches reproductive age, which is when it is between 20 and 25 years old. After this time they return to the same beach and will spawn within a radius of 5 meters where they were born. That is why the situation arises that if a beach turtle eggs are illegally extracted, then in 25 years any turtle will return.
Sea turtles are currently in danger of extinction due to various factors such as: poaching, at the hands of fishermen who kill 35 thousand specimens every year; incidental fishing; the collection of eggs for consumption, since many consider them an aphrodisiac food; the modification of the costs; and the pollution of the sea, especially plastic bags, that the turtles eat because they are mistaken for jellyfish, which are part of their diet.
The marine garbage can kill by asphyxia the chelonians or cause deformities in their anatomy, like the Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) rescued in the sea of Gran Canaria, with the two fins amputated.
Each year, 6.4 million tons of garbage ends up in the oceans, according to data from the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme). It is estimated that approximately 50 thousand of sea turtles die from eating garbage. The percentages of survival at sea for turtles are very low, so we have to help in their conservation.
- Avoid buying or consuming eggs, meat, tortoiseshell items or other sea turtle products.
- Report to the authorities who violate the turtle protection laws and, especially, the sellers of turtle meat at the nearest police station.
- Do not throw garbage into the sea.
- Reducing pollution at sea with fuels and other harmful materials, such as plastic wrap.
- Respect the laws and agreements created to conserve sea turtles.
- Do not use Mules in the sand area on the beaches.
Do not let them go extinct! Sea turtles have existed for more than 200 million years. Since the age of dinosaurs.