Friday, February 08, 2008

Go free little turtle

One of the unexpected highlights of my visit to Roatan last September occurred while staying at The Reef House Resort. The owner , Larry, participates in a program to rehabilitate injured turtles. Injured turtles are nursed back to health in a rock pool adjacent to the resort. The rock pool is quite large. So large in fact that I was able to conduct confined water training in the pool on a previous visit.

Larry told me that the turtles are often accidentally caught by fishermen. The turtles are tagged and when they are judged to be healthy enough are released back into the ocean. Larry invited me to be part of a trip to release two turtles and it was the first time that I had the honor to be part of something like this.

We gently loaded the two turtles into tubs with water, got them on the boat and headed south - way away from the regular spots where people dive. My job was to get into the water ahead of the turtles and capture the moment of release. The picture at the top is the moment after the first turtle was released. I was surprised by how fast he moved.

The second turtle was smaller and moved a little slower and I was able to follow him for about 10 minutes or so. In the photo below you can see the tag on the bottom of the right front fin.

If you are interesting in helping the Turtle Awareness Program (TAPS) that these turtles benefited from, you can find more information at the TAPS page of the Loma Linda University. Below is a description of the program from the TAPS page

Our TAPS seek to increase awareness and understanding of juvenile hawksbill and green sea turtles in Honduran waters initially by documenting the movements, habitat usage, and migratory onset of a cohort of turtles 'reclaimed' from local area fishermen by tagging then mapping their locations as they move through the water column and across the sea surface.

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