When we were in Akumal a few weeks ago, one of my favorite things I was able to do was snorkel with the sea turtles. They are beautiful, majestic creatures- you don't really think about turtles as being graceful but they really were. When they swim, they look like they're flying underwater. Charles and I were also lucky enough to be walking down the beach and see turtle eggs hatching and the little guys crawling their way to the sea.
Apparently a lot of Akumal escaped major damage with Hurricane Dean, but these turtles which are threatened by extinction, lost a lot of nests. Turtle season was in full swing when Hurricane Dean hit. As of August 13 we had 74 Loggerhead and 64 Green turtle nests on Akumal’s beaches. In addition, there had been 3,953 Loggerhead and 437 Green turtle hatchlings. We lost all nests in Akumal, except one in South Akumal. We have six nests that were saved prior to the storm remaining in Styrofoam ice chests, and two of them will be released by August 24, as soon as the waves subside. As we were trying to rescue nests in the days before Dean’s arrival, we were able to help seven nests hatch and all the hatchlings got to sea.
The Centro Ecologico Akumal does critical work trying to save the sea turtles, the above italicized passage is their information, and I've pasted more below. If you were thinking about getting me a birthday present (maybe you weren't, that's fine too) please consider making a small donation to the CEA instead. I'm sure they could use every little bit.
To see pics of the Akumal beach
To give to CEA
Summertime at CEA
by Paul Sánchez-Navarro
As we come to the end of summer I look out of my office window, still seeing green everywhere, along with birds, lizards, iguanas and more. I am thankful that we were spared major damage from Hurricane Dean and am reminded that hurricane season is not over.
We had a very busy summer season at CEA and thought we might produce just one 'Summer Newsletter.' However, as we began editing, it was once again evident that CEA summers are a very active time. Turtle season is at its peak, reef monitoring continues, water quality is being tested, and visitors must be reminded that sea turtles are wild animals and corals are alive. And our main challenge—the Akumal Bay Management Program—teaches us something new each day this summer, as we work to build consensus among all
>the groups using the bay and to rally everyone to improve its management.
Our dorms are packed full with volunteers helping in each program, but especially with turtle patrol, so social life at CEA gets a bump in the summer as well. What a great team we have this year, staff and volunteers! It is such a pleasure to be the director of this conservation organization; with all its trials come great rewards as well. I hope you enjoy reading about our activities over the past few months and I invite you to join us in closing the summer with success. We couldn't be here without your support. Finally, we truly appreciate all the prayers and
>well wishes from everyone as we braced for Hurricane Dean. Thank you.
Turtle Nest Updates
Turtle season was in full swing when Hurricane Dean hit. As of August 13 we had 74 Loggerhead and 64 Green turtle nests on Akumal’s beaches. In addition, there had been 3,953 Loggerhead and 437 Green turtle hatchlings. We lost all nests in Akumal, except one in South Akumal. We have six nests that were saved prior to the storm remaining in Styrofoam ice chests, and two of them will be released by August 24, as soon as the waves subside. As we were trying to rescue nests in the days before Dean’s arrival, we were able to help seven nests hatch and all the hatchlings got to sea.
It was difficult to locate some nests as people had moved the markers from their original place. This is why it is so important for visitors and locals to support our work and not create greater obstacles in sea turtle conservation by moving markers, leaving things on the beach at night, or actually disturbing our patrol program with harassment and threats, because of a lack of understanding of how our program operates and why we need to dig to locate some nests and then properly mark them. There is some good news though: The turtles are beginning to come ashore again, especially in South Akumal and Aventuras Akumal, so we really need everyone to do their part in helping to protect them. If you are visiting the area and come upon a mother turtle nesting, please stay away from her, let her build her nest and lay the eggs. This takes a long time so please leave her alone. Thanks to everyone who has been supporting, and continues to support, turtle protection activities!
To help our efforts, this would be a really good time to to contribute to our Adopt-a-Turtle Program. Thanks again!
Hurricanes and Coral Reefs – edited from the August 2005 CEA Newsletter
Typically, in the Caribbean, the hurricane season starts in June, reaching its peak in mid-August, and lasting through late November. The direct pounding of the waves during a tropical storm can break up large corals. After the strong rain, large amounts of sediment and freshwater drain into the sea and out to the adjacent reefs. Corals require clear water and
>stable salinity levels in order to live; therefore, the increased turbidity of the water and decreased level of salinity can stress some corals.
Many people do not know that the word for tropical storms in the Atlantic—hurricane—comes from Maya mythology. As cited in Wikipedia, Hurakan (the one-legged one) was the Maya god of fire, wind and storms. It was this god who caused the universal flood. He is represented as a being with a snake tail and appears to be a reptile.
In the next few days we will try to assess the damage to the reef in the Akumal area. However, the place to expect major reef damage will be in the Mahahual and Banco Chinchorro areas, south of here, as the eye of Hurricane Dean made landfall in the southern part of the state.
Images of destroyed reef come to mind, but tropical storms may actually
>benefit coral reefs. Segments of branching corals that break off during hurricanes may settle and start new coral colonies, or areas of substrate
>may be cleared giving way to smooth surfaces on which coral larvae can
>settle. For this process to be beneficial however, it is important that the
>number of hurricanes hitting a given reef remain at a reasonable level; too
>many hurricanes will not allow the reef to recuperate. Likewise, added
>stresses such as contaminated water can limit the coral species’ abilities
Bay Management Program Progress
The bay management program, initiated by CEA, continues with the arrival of additional buoys to mark areas for swimmers, boats, and other activities. Increasing use of the bay, especially by tour operators and boatloads of guests from nearby resorts, threatens people, boats, turtles, coral and the entire ecosystem. Fortunately, several of the properties on the bay—Akumal Beach Resort, Hotel Club Akumal Caribe, Las Casitas, Akumal Dive Shop, Akumal Dive Center, CEA—as well as local fishing tour operators and the Mexican environmental secretary (SEMARNAT) have reached consensus on the need for a management program. Implementation and compliance with the program will be a long process, because the program intends to change behaviors, such as limiting where boats may moor, and replacing chlorine bleach used to clean the boats with
>environmentally neutral cleaners. CEA continues to promote accepted best practices for bay management, developed by the International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN) with the participation of many organizations like CEA, as well as marine resource users from around the world.
The businesses which agreed to the effort, and CEA using funds provided by the World Wildlife Fund, are helping pay for it. The program has been approved by Mexican authorities.
New Coloring Books From CEA
When school begins this fall, new coloring books will help school children learn about recycling, turtles and coral reefs. Mauricio Bautista Vega, CEA's Coordinator of Environmental Education, supervised the production of the three entertaining resources: The History of Garbage (in Spanish, English and French), The Life of Turtles (in the same three languages), and What We Should Know About the Coral Reef (in English and Spanish). Mauricio wrote the first two and Teresa Jimenez wrote the third.
Edith Sosa Bravo, Coordinator of CEA's Water Quality Program, gets credit for the original idea for these coloring books. CEA received funding assistance from the Fundación Ecológia Bahía Principe Tulum A.C., Palladium Hotels and Resorts, Dirección de Medio Ambiente (the environmental office of the Municipality), and Gran Bahia Principe. The effort was part of a teacher training course, the first in a series, to provide ecology materials and training for local teachers. The books will also be used in
>the kids' clubs of participating hotels.
Wyomissing High School Spanish Club
by Lydia Pontius
A group of high school students from Wyomissing, Pennsylvania came to Akumal in June on a fun and educational outing organized by Just Imagine Vacations. These students had the opportunity to meet the students from the Telesecundaria and got a chance to go to talks, tours and even play some pick up 'futbol.' It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and they are grateful for the role that CEA played. Their first day in Akumal they visited the school and went with the local students to a 'What Is CEA?' talk and a talk about 'The Coral Reefs.' Following the presentations everyone went on a snorkeling tour of Akumal Bay with some of the CEA volunteers. That evening the Wyomissing students attended the CEA 'Turtle Talk.' Because the group was so large they were divided in half. The first half went on the turtle walk immediately following the talk but unfortunately they did not get to see any turtles; however, the group that went the second night got to see both a Green Turtle and a Loggerhead lay their nests. One of the turtles was spotted coming towards the kids and quietly they had to get out of her way; after they moved, one student realized that he had dropped his cell phone. The mother turtle buried it in the sand as she crawled up the beach and they thought it was lost forever, but on the way back the student actually tripped over it and recovered it—now that is a commercial for someone. I should add the cell phone was turned off at the time.
In addition to the CEA talks, snorkeling tours and turtle walks, the students did a Beach Clean-Up with the CEA volunteers. They also had an opportunity to visit a number of eco-parks and ruins with some of the local students. The highlight was the second futbol game which was played in the field across from the Biblioteca; it lasted for hours in the brutal heat but it burned memories that will last forever. We ended the night with a pizza party and dancing at Lol-Ha. Ryan Wolfe DJ'ed and CEA's own Edith Sosa gave free Salsa lessons.
New Eco-Baño Under Construction
Workers began construction on an additional composting toilet in front of CEA. The original composting toilet was not constructed to handle the large number of visitors to Akumal and CEA. Composting human waste helps keep sewage out of the sea. The sewage’s bacteria are an issue to human health, of course, and the nutrients, especially phosphorus and nitrogen, speed the growth of reef-choking algae. Keeping the nutrients on land as composted fertilizer helps keep reefs healthier.
CEA has updated two of its publications containing important information to help improve the quality of local groundwater. Please click here to see the revised 'Constructed Wetlands Operation & Maintenance Guide' and click here to see 'A Manual of Operations and Maintenance of Septic Systems.' They are both in PDF format. Is anybody reading the turtle/reef protection sign??? Tour operators and all-inclusive resorts bring large groups, sometimes as many as 40 at a time, to snorkel in Akumal Bay. Some guides provide excellent instructions on protecting the coral and turtles, while other guides simply give a wave and shout, 'Follow me.' Even under the best guidance, the increasing numbers of bay users threaten the bay's ecosystem.
Mark your calendar and plan to attend our Third Annual CEA Festival, Save Our Seas, February 20 and 21, 2008. Contact us for more information.
Please continue to tell your friends about CEA! Many CEA Members join after being referred to CEA by people like you. If you have questions about how you can become more involved, please contact us. The Yucatan Environmental Foundation is the U.S. 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor for CEA. All donations made through YEF for CEA are tax-deductible in the U.S.