Mérida, Yucatán — Nesting sea turtles and Easter-week vacationers will share the beach this year. That’s worrying to anyone concerned about the fragile sea turtle population.
Because the holiday period coincides with the sea turtle nesting season along the Yucatecan coast, Jorge Carlos Berlin Montero, a state environmental official, announced increased efforts to prevent visitors from encroaching on the turtles’ nesting places.
The agency will also enforce anti-littering rules and encourage beachgoers to respect the beach. Awareness campaigns and forums in town halls and schools will reinforce this message. Increased monitoring of beach sites will follow, he said.
“We have to be extra careful, since Yucatán along the coast is the ideal nesting site for turtles,” the official said.
Berlin Montero said that clean beaches will prevent the turtles from ingesting garbage mistaken for food.
“We all have the obligation to take care of natural resources, because that is what our own lives depend on,” said Berlin Montero.
Seven of the world’s eight sea turtles species nest on the beaches of Mexico, which boasts one of the world’s most extensive shorelines. But nesting beaches for turtles are disappearing because of climate change and shoreline construction.
In Yucatán, nesting camps are monitored in Celestún, Sisal, Progreso, Alacranes, Telchac Puerto, Dzilam Bravo, Las Coloradas and El Cuyo.
Adult sea turtles live in the water except when females come ashore to nest and lay eggs up to four times a year starting in April. Vulnerable eggs incubate for 60 days under the sand — plenty of time for something to go wrong.
Another concern is poachers. Turtles are desired for meat and leather, and pregnant sea turtles aren’t as agile on land. Their eggs are taken for food and sold as aphrodisiacs — one person was arrested in 2015 when they were caught with hundreds of eggs for sale in the Centro.