Bi-national effort to preserve sea turtle habitat and protect mangrove ecosystems
Editor’s Note: San Diego Free Press wants to keep readers informed about how San Diego organizations are making grassroots news and promoting progressive views. Perhaps you haven’t heard about WILDCOAST. Here’s an introduction to this group that is helping to conserve coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife on both sides of the border.
Last month members of the San Diego Uptown Rotary Club joined with WILDCOAST staff in a volunteer effort to preserve some of the world’s most important sea turtle nesting beaches along Oaxaca, Mexico’s coast. Their goal was to promote awareness of the ecological significance of the areas they visited to residents and visitors. They participated in the cleanups of the beaches and tidal lagoons which are essential to the health of the ocean and the life it supports.
The activities began in the small village of Barra de la Cruz, 63 miles south of Huatulco. Volunteers were introduced to the local communities that are part of the Chontal tribe that has inhabited the area for many generations. The Leatherback, Olive ridley and Green sea turtles return to Barra de la Cruz every year to lay their eggs, making the beaches there especially critical to preservation efforts.
The group then headed to San Agustin beach, part of the Huatulco National Park system and home to about 250 people who depend on a healthy ocean. Here they turned their attention to the mangrove lagoons. The low growing mangrove trees help stabilize the soil in the tropics and subtropics, providing nutrients and protection for terrestrial and brackish water organism.
The volunteers assisted in a cleanup effort to remove plastic bottles, bags, candy wrappers and toilet paper from the mangroves. They spoke to young people and community members about ways to keep the area clean and healthy. Afterwards, the volunteers took a snorkeling tour of the San Agustin reef with a local guide. The snorkeling trip provided a direct experience of what WILDCOAST is committed to preserving.
The final day of the trip was particularly meaningful. Mazunte, Oaxaca is home to the Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga, a sea turtle aquarium and conservation center. This commitment to sea turtle conservation is a sharp departure from its past association with the large scale massacre of sea turtles for their meat.
Volunteers visited the only elementary school in Mazunte, took part in the creation of an ocean themed mural and talked about the importance of conserving sea turtles. Later that day, volunteers had the opportunity to release eighteen baby sea turtles to the ocean. The Centro Mexicano de la Tortuga aquarium had kept them for a few months until they were big enough to have better chances to survive in the wild.
Out of 1,000 sea turtles born, it is believed that only 1 will make it to adulthood.
All Photo Credits: WILDCOAST