Everything You Need to Know about Riviera Nayarit’s Beloved Sea Turtles
While visiting Mexico’s picturesque Riviera Nayarit, you may be lucky enough to encounter a sea turtle. There are seven sea turtle species in the world, six of which live in Mexico. In Nayarit, the most common species of sea turtle is the Olive Ridley, or Tortuga Golfina as it’s known in Spanish. From June through the late fall, the females of this species return to the exact same beach where they were born with the goal of burying a clutch of eggs. When they come ashore, each turtle lays up to two hundred eggs. These buried eggs then incubate for forty five to sixty days, before hatching during the winter months. After hatching, the baby turtles must fight their way from their nest across the open beach to the sea, all the while exposed to hungry predators.
Previously, due to human poaching of the eggs as well as natural predators, the historic survival rate for these baby sea turtles was only forty percent. In fact, in Matanchen Bay, Nayarit, there used to be two large scale slaughterhouses where turtles were killed for their meat, oil and shells. It’s said that the turtles’ chilling screams could be heard from far away. Similarly, poachers flooded the black market with turtle eggs.
Fortunately, nearly 40 years ago, protective measures were enacted and the sea turtle is now a protected animal according to the Federal Government of Mexico. The change in the laws has brought more awareness to area residents and tourists alike and steps have been taken to protect both the turtles’ nests as well as the hatchlings as they make their long journey from egg to sea. Thanks to volunteer organizations that search for and relocate turtle nests, that survival rate has risen to nearly ninety-six percent. Marine biologists and security volunteers patrol the beaches at night relocating nests to protected turtle nurseries where they are guarded from both poachers and predators. Currently, there are approximately fifteen turtle nurseries (“campamentos tortugueros”) in the greater Vallarta area in the states of Jalisco and Nayarit, five of which are located in our immediate area between Nuevo Vallarta and Lo de Marcos along the beautiful Riviera Nayarit coastline. The north end of Pacifico Properties’ own local beach, Playa Litibu has its own campamento tortuguero, which was recently relocated from Playa Careyeros. Easily accessible locations can also be found in Sayulita & San Pancho. Now, more than one million sea turtles are born each year in Riviera Nayarit, with hundreds of thousands of tourists making incredible vacation memories by participating in sunset turtle releases. Check in with us to see when you can participate and how you can help our majestic sea turtles.
Currently, the most pressing challenge for the sea turtle is caused by plastic waste in the oceans. Nearly everyone has seen the viral video made by an expedition of marine biologists in Costa Rica who thought they were removing a parasitic worm from a sea turtle’s nostril. In fact, the sea turtle was having trouble breathing due to a plastic straw that was lodged in its nostril and throat. Luckily, the biologists were able to extract the straw and the turtle survived. In addition, jellyfish comprise a significant source of food for our beloved sea turtles. However, an unfortunate reality is a small floating plastic bag is often mistaken for a Jellyfish and mistakenly consumed as food.
As a result of the increased awareness resulting from that video, local and international movements are spreading, bringing individuals and businesses together to reduce plastic debris in our oceans by banning drinking straws, plastic utensils and plastic bags. The Bahia de Banderas is no exception and many restaurants, bars, and markets are transitioning away from plastic disposables. And if your margarita does happen to come with a straw, it’s more likely to be made from paper or avocado than plastic.
So, you’re only here vacationing for a week or two, what can you do? LOTS! First, take your kids to a local campamento tortuguero. It’s an endearing experience they won’t soon forget. Make a small donation to these volunteer run groups. More importantly, when you order a drink in our region, AND at home, order them SIN POPOTE (without a straw). Bring reusable containers to dinner to bring your leftovers home. NEVER accept a styrofoam container. Some restaurants offer take-out (para llevar) containers that are biodegradable and may sometimes charge a nominal fee for these containers. They cost more. Happily pay the nominal fee. As a souvenir buy a reusable, stainless steel straw. Many reusable, enviro-aware products can be found at Costa Verde International School in Sayulita and many of the local markets.
Feel free to contact any Pacifico Property team member for the location of nearby campamento tortuguero and information on very easy steps you can take to keep plastic out of your day to day consumption and ultimately out of our Oceans worldwide.