Mazatlán City Council will rescue the sea turtle protection program

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With the closure of the Mazatlán Aquarium, the recreational, educational and conservation programs also came to an end; the City Council announced that it will “rescue” at least one of them.

The nesting season of the sea turtle is from June to November, but the strongest is from July, when the weather conditions are right.

Mazatlán, Sin.- On May 1, the Mazatlán Aquarium closed its doors forever after 42 years of service to make way for the new Mar de Cortés Aquarium, which meant a stroke of nostalgia for locals, tourists and for the workers themselves.

Its creation revolutionized tourism in the port, becoming an icon and one of the most visited attractions due to the shows and exhibitions it offered.

With the mandatory closure of the marine center also came to an end a number of recreational, educational and conservation programs.

Created in 1980, the Mazatlán Aquarium was the first of its kind in Mexico and Latin America, since its inception it was a promoter of the protection and conservation of the environment, injured, sick species or confiscated organisms arrived at its facilities; This is how the conservation programs began, including the protection of the sea turtle, with the objective of guaranteeing the continuity of the reproduction of these species and protecting the greatest number of eggs to reincorporate them into their natural habitat.

In 1991, after the seven species of sea turtles alive in the world were classified as protected due to being in danger of extinction, the Sea Turtle Protection Program was officially created, which has worked without interruption for 32 years since that date.

Among the actions of this program is the protection of the nests when the turtles go out to lay their eggs on the Mazatlan beaches; in the first year, barely 13 nests were recorded. The population of these reptiles was very low due to overexploitation in the 1960s and 1970s to market their skin.

The nesting season is from June to November, but the strongest season is from July, when the right weather conditions are there, because, according to Biologist José Barrón Hernández, who has been in charge of the program for more than two decades, nesting requires humidity and temperature, if the sand is very dry the nest begins to crumble; although there have been sporadic records in other months of the year.

The turtle normally comes out to spawn at night to avoid the strong heat and the sun’s rays, since in summer the temperatures are too high and their organs can get hot.

Of the 21 kilometers of beach that Mazatlán has, the area with the largest nesting is Del Mar avenue, despite the fact that it is an area with a lot of traffic, a lot of noise and lights, another area is Cerritos, where in recent years I have seen an increase in spawning.

The average number of eggs per turtle is 90 to 100 per nest, according to the records that are available up to now.

“The nests are incubated in boxes, there are camps that incubate them in the beach area, here you cannot do that because in cyclone season, which is practically nesting season, the strong swells hit the walls and if those nests remain on the beaches, they would be lost,” Jose Barron explained.

The eggs are taken to the Aquarium, where they are incubated in Styrofoam boxes at a temperature of 30 degrees and humidity of 60 to 70 percent. After 45 days the shell breaks; the hatching success rate is 75 to 80 percent; Whether an egg hatch depends on several factors, whether they are fertilized or not, whether the turtle was very young or very old, among others.

“According to SEMARNAT regulations, the hatchlings must be released the same day they are born, unless the sea conditions are not suitable, sometimes there have been cyclones and the sea is too rough,” he said.

One of the best experiences of this program is precisely the release of hatchlings, for which the Mazatlan community, tourists and schools are summoned to participate in the act in order to raise awareness about the care of these organisms and the environment.

Sadly, the number of nests that survive is very low due to the large number of predators around them, including humans and pollution.

Studies say that out of a thousand turtles only one or two reach adulthood, this is due to the large number of predators they have since they are little, since they are born they have predators, feral dogs, raccoons, fish, crabs, sharks,” he lamented.

There are seven sea turtles in the world and five of them are in the Mexican Pacific, the most recovered is the olive ridley, since it began to be protected since the 70s; in the port there have also been records of leatherback and brown turtles.

The risks against these species are constant, such as vehicle access to the sand area, still allowed on some state beaches; garbage, pollution, and climate change and rising ocean temperatures are other threat factors.

“The turtle needs an adequate temperature for its birth, but the temperature also determines the sex of the hatchlings, with high temperatures more females than males are being born naturally, that also ends up being a problem, because there will be more females, there are an imbalance,” he said.

The chelonians use the marine waters of national jurisdiction for breeding, transit and feeding purposes and although direct extraction has been banned in the country since 1990, an illegal practice, it continues to persist either for the trafficking of products and by-products, they are usually slaughtered for the consumption of their meat and eggs or their shell, which is used in the manufacture of jewelry, also their skin, which is used to make leather products.

The penalties for those who capture, damage, or deprive life of a turtle specimen, collect, or store their products in any way, are from 3 to 11 years in prison and a fine of 25,000 to 100,000 pesos.

The jurisdiction of Acuario Mazatlán was from Olas Altas to Cerritos; In 2021, 1,170 nests and 110,105 eggs were protected; at the end of the season, 87,083 hatchlings had been released.

In 2022, 1,353 nests were protected, up to 15 percent more compared to the previous season and 131,153 incubated eggs, 19 percent more than last year; 87,313 pups were released.

In the 32 years of operation of the Sea Turtle Protection Program, one million 734 thousand 472 eggs were rescued, and one million 389 thousand 581 hatchlings were released.

In 2014, it was possible to mark several specimens that arrived on the Mazatlan beaches, there are records of a turtle that was coming out to spawn from 2014 to 2022 on at least 16 occasions.

“We can realize that the turtles are faithful to the beach area where they come out to nest, they are probably turtles that were born on the beaches of Mazatlán,” said Barrón Hernández.

With the mandatory closure of the marine center also came to an end several recreational, educational and conservation programs.

They will “rescue” the program

After the mandatory closure of the Mazatlán Aquarium, the City Council contemplates rescuing at least the Sea Turtle Protection Program.

The rescue, reproduction and release activities of these reptiles will continue through the Beach Operator and Administrator and the biologist Barrón Hernández will remain in charge.

The objective is to reach an agreement as soon as possible since the nesting season is about to begin.

In addition, it will not be necessary to increase the budget of the city, since the most expensive thing is the equipment, coolers, incubators, ATVs and everything is already available.

They are also going to use the OAP personnel who daily visit the beaches in cleaning and surveillance tasks.

Source: El Sol de Mazatlan