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Marine Life & Conservation

Sea Turtles – what will it take to save them?

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Staci-Lee Sherwood works at Sea Turtle Oversight Protection, Highland Beach Sea Turtle State-wide Morning Survey Program and Sea Turtle Rescue/Research & Ocean Conservation projects (USA)

Sea Turtles have been around about 150 million years and unlike the dinosaurs have managed to survive….so far. Their struggles begin in the nest, which is sometimes filled with trash and fishing line, and so many of the hatchlings are stuck and in need of rescue as newborns.  As they crawl to the top of the nest and attempt to make their way to the ocean they are often bombarded with bright artificial lights from the shore that confuse and disorientate, causing them to race toward the light instead of the ocean.  In Florida alone thousands of newborn sea turtles die each season because of light disorientation when they are only a few hours old and all of this is human caused and preventable. We are trying to change that.

If they manage to get to the ocean, a host of hungry predators are waiting to snack on them.  During their lives they must avoid becoming a meal while at the same staying clear of plastic, chemicals, oil, trash, boats, fishing hooks, fishing nets or killed for their shells and meat, etc.  Roughly 86% of all Sea Turtles have plastic in them which is more than any other marine animal.  Normally these animals can live as long as humans but their life is a constant 24/7 struggle.  As the ocean heats up and becomes more toxic not only are they effected directly but also indirectly as their food supply vanishes due to overfishing and disease. The increased ocean temperature creates a good host environment for bacteria and disease to spread. Then we have the oil spills, which coats them and causes them to die a slow death as they are suffocated by the oil or killed by the chemicals dumped into the ocean after a spill. Either way, Sea Turtles that swim into an oil spill rarely swim out and survive.

Unfortunately for the Sea Turtle they are a migrating species that travel and nest all over the globe. While this migrating can offer better feeding when an old feeding ground becomes depleted it also means more danger. Sea Turtles may have protection here in the U.S. but they don’t have much protection elsewhere in the world where they are still openly hunted for their meat and shell. Once they swim out of protected waters into international waters they become fair game to any fisherman. This problem is also true for other endangered marine animals like Sharks, Whales and Dolphins. Monitoring is abysmal at best and education is done piecemeal. As is the case with so many things, few step back to see the big picture, which is why truly affective conservation methods are few and far between.

Nesting females mature at about age 20 years, leatherbacks a bit sooner, and return to their natal beach to lay their eggs. Coastal development and beach erosion is destroying their habitat which further complicates their survival. These gentle endangered creatures will only continue to survive and share our world if we allow them space to live and nest. As we continue to develop the beaches, dump chemicals into the ocean and deplete the ocean of every fish, the sea turtle’s struggle for survival is questionable.

So what can someone do to help save them from what seems like an endless gauntlet of potential disasters? For starters stop using plastic. One of the biggest problems we are finding in dead post-mortem hatchlings is they have stomachs filled with plastic instead of food. This can also be said for most marine life including shorebirds. Not only is plastic polluting the ocean but the manufacturing of it is incredibly toxic and since it’s a by-product of fossil fuels the demand for plastic keeps us drilling for more oil. In fact more oil is used in the production of plastic than it is refined for gasoline for cars. That’s how serious a problem it is, but anyone can help by switching from plastic bags to reusable ones. Use a stainless steel thermos instead of plastic and never ever litter.  Giving up seafood to let the fish population try to recoup from the daily onslaught will really help because commercial fishing kills untold numbers of ‘non target’ species like Sea Turtles. Trawlers, long line hooks and nets that go on for miles have already devastated huge areas of the ocean which is in dire need of a break. Many ocean conservationists have made the choice to drop the plastic and give up seafood for the sake of the ocean, myself included. Beach cleanings are critical and very easy to arrange and in fact anyone can go out and pick up the trash, of which there is always a lot of. Supporting clean sustainable energy like wind and solar and moving away from oil and coal will help curb the acid rain created by coal fired power plants which is warming the ocean and making it very acidic and toxic. (Note on acid rain from Staci-lee – see below)

Just by doing these simple and not so simple things we can turn the tide not only for the Sea Turtle but also for the ocean. If we fail to act now it won’t just be the Sea Turtle we will be losing. For the past 6 years I have been researching and rescuing Sea Turtles so I speak from personal experience in the field and things are even worse than I’ve described. We really are at that tipping point. We hold their future in our hands and unless we get serious about global conservation of the species these living fossils will no longer be living, they will just be fossils….like the dinosaur.  For more information about how you can help save Sea Turtles here are a few noteworthy links:

http://seaturtleop.org/broward/ – Sea Turtle Oversight Protection, we rescue disorientated hatchlings and make sure they get into the ocean instead of dying in the road from light pollution.

http://sos-tobago.org/trinbago-turtles/leatherback – Save our Sea Turtles, volunteer program in Tobago working to save one of the biggest Leatherback nesting grounds in the world from poachers.

http://www.conserveturtles.org/ – Sea Turtle Conservancy, working in the U.S. and Costa Rica to save habitat.

http://www.seaturtlesforever.com/ – Sea Turtles Forever, a volunteer program in Costa Rica helping locals switch from poachers to protectors.

 

(Acid Rain) About acid rain and warming the ocean, I was referring to both oil and coal which contribute to the ocean’s problems differently. Acid rain is caused by the release of nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide from coal fired plants which causes the acidification of the ocean which has already happened. Burning fossil fuels and the entire process of drilling and refining oil creates heat in simple terms which warms the atmosphere and stratosphere and raises the core temperature of earth, including that of the ocean which is about 2 degrees warmer. It also releases carbon dioxide which further adds acid to the ocean. Acid rain also destroys forests and there is thinking that with fewer forests (which help shade and cool the earth) that too is causing ocean warming. The release of these chemicals from both coal and oil causes a thinning of the ozone layer and expansion of the 3 existing holes – this allows more UV rays to get through which causes a rise in the core temperature. Finally not only coal and oil but all pollutants we release hover around the earth like a layer of toxins, they don’t evaporate or disappear they just stay in the atmosphere forever which also creates warming. So yes, both coal and oil cause ocean acidification and warming… which is unfortunate since we are addicted to both.  

Jeff is a multiple award winning, freelance TV cameraman/film maker and author. Having made both terrestrial and marine films, it is the world's oceans and their conservation that hold his passion with over 10.000 dives in his career. Having filmed for international television companies around the world and author of two books on underwater filming, Jeff is Author/Programme Specialist for the 'Underwater Action Camera' course for the RAID training agency. Jeff has experienced the rapid advances in technology for diving as well as camera equipment and has also experienced much of our planet’s marine life, witnessing, first hand, many of the changes that have occurred to the wildlife and environment during that time. Jeff runs bespoke underwater video and editing workshops for the complete beginner up to the budding professional.

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Diving with Frogfish in Costa Rica: A Hidden Gem Underwater

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In the vast and vibrant underwater world of Costa Rica, there’s a peculiar creature that often goes unnoticed but holds a special place in the hearts of divers: the frogfish. This enigmatic and somewhat odd-looking species is a master of camouflage and a marvel of marine life. Diving with frogfish in Costa Rica is not just a dive; it’s an adventurous treasure hunt that rewards the patient and observant with unforgettable encounters. Let’s dive into the world of frogfish and discover what makes these creatures so fascinating and where you can find them in Costa Rica.

The Mystique of Frogfish

Frogfish belong to the family Antennariidae, a group of marine fish known for their incredible ability to blend into their surroundings. They can be found in a variety of colors, including yellow, pink, red, green, black, and white, and they often have unique spots and textures that mimic the coral and sponges around them. This camouflage isn’t just for show; it’s a critical survival tactic that helps them ambush prey and avoid predators.

One of the most remarkable features of the frogfish is its modified dorsal fin, which has evolved into a luring appendage called an esca. The frogfish uses this esca to mimic prey, such as small fish or crustaceans, enticing unsuspecting victims close enough to be engulfed by its surprisingly large mouth in a fraction of a second. This method of hunting is a fascinating spectacle that few divers forget once witnessed.

Where to Find Frogfish in Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s Pacific coast is dotted with dive sites that offer the chance to encounter these intriguing creatures. Bat Islands (Islas Murciélagos), Catalina Islands (Islas Catalinas), and the area around the Gulf of Papagayo are renowned for their rich marine life, including frogfish. These sites vary in depth and conditions, catering to both novice and experienced divers.

The key to spotting frogfish is to dive with a knowledgeable guide who can point out these master camouflagers hiding in plain sight. They’re often found perched on rocky outcroppings, nestled within coral, or even hiding among debris, perfectly mimicking their surroundings.

frogfish

Diving Tips for Spotting Frogfish

Go Slow: The secret to spotting frogfish is to move slowly and scan carefully. Their camouflage is so effective that they can be right in front of you without being noticed.

Look for Details: Pay attention to the small details. A slightly different texture or an out-of-place color can be the clue you need.

Dive with Local Experts: Local dive guides have an eagle eye for spotting wildlife, including frogfish. Their expertise can significantly increase your chances of an encounter.

Practice Buoyancy Control: Good buoyancy control is essential not just for safety and coral preservation but also for getting a closer look without disturbing these delicate creatures.

Be Patient: Patience is key. Frogfish aren’t known for their speed, and sometimes staying in one spot and observing can yield the best sightings.

Conservation and Respect

While the excitement of spotting a frogfish can be thrilling, it’s crucial to approach all marine life with respect and care. Maintain a safe distance, resist the urge to touch or provoke, and take only photos, leaving behind nothing but bubbles. Remember, the health of the reef and its inhabitants ensures future divers can enjoy these incredible encounters as much as you do.

Join the Adventure

Diving with frogfish in Costa Rica is just one of the many underwater adventures that await in this biodiverse paradise. Whether you’re a seasoned diver or taking your first plunge, the waters here offer an unparalleled experience filled with wonders at every turn. Beyond the thrill of the hunt for frogfish, you’ll be treated to a world teeming with incredible marine life, majestic rays, playful dolphins, and so much more.

So, gear up, dive in, and let the mysteries of Costa Rica’s underwater realm unfold before your eyes. With every dive, you’re not just exploring the ocean; you’re embarking on an adventure that highlights the beauty, complexity, and fragility of our marine ecosystems. And who knows? Your next dive might just be the one where you come face-to-face with the elusive and captivating frogfish. Join us at Rocket Frog Divers for the dive of a lifetime, where the marvels of the ocean are waiting to be discovered.

About the Author: Jonathan Rowe

Are you looking to make a splash online? As a seasoned diver and digital marketer, I specialize in crafting bespoke websites and innovative marketing strategies for dive shops worldwide. With my expertise, your business will not only be seen but also remembered.

From deep-sea to digital depths, I navigate the complex waters of web development and online marketing, ensuring your dive shop stands out in the vast ocean of the internet. Contact Scuba Dive Marketing for more information.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Save the Manatee Club launches brand new webcams at Silver Springs State Park, Florida

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Save the Manatee® Club has launched a brand-new set of underwater and above-water webcams at Silver Springs State Park in Ocala, FL. These new cameras add to our existing cameras at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida, and Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, in Homosassa, Florida, which are viewed by millions of people worldwide. The cameras are a collaboration between Save the Manatee Club, Explore.org, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, who made the new live streaming collaboration possible via support of their interpretative program.

The above-water camera is a stationary pan/tilt/zoom camera that will show manatees and other wildlife from above water, while the new underwater camera provides the viewer with a brand new, exciting 180-degree viewing experience. Viewers can move the cameras around, trying to spot various fish and manatees.

The Silver River, which originates at Silver Springs, provides important habitat for manatees and many other species of wildlife. Over recent years, more manatees have been seen utilizing the Silver and Ocklawaha rivers. “The webcams provide a wonderful entertainment and educational tool to the general public, but they also help us with the manatee research,” says Patrick Rose, Executive Director of Save the Manatee Club. “We have learned so much through observing manatees on our existing webcams, and the new cameras at Silver Spring can add to the existing manatee photo-ID research conducted in this area, as well as highlighting Silver Springs and the Silver River as an important natural habitat for manatees.”

The webcams are streaming live during the daytime, with highlights playing at night, and can be viewed on Explore.org and on Save the Manatee Club’s website at ManaTV.org.

Save the Manatee Club, established in 1981 by the late renowned singer-songwriter, author, and entrepreneur Jimmy Buffett, along with former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, is dedicated to safeguarding manatees and preserving their aquatic habitat. For more information about manatees and the Club’s efforts, visit savethemanatee.org or call 1-800-432-JOIN (5646).

Photo: www.avalon.red

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