Thursday Treat- Turtles!

I had a real treat yesterday! I got to go to NOAAs research facility in Galveston and learn all about what they’re doing with the sea turtles there.

I only found out about this whole thing last week. I happened to Google ‘things to do in Galveston” and one of the things listed was a sea turtle tour. I had known about the turtles in the back of my mind, since I’ve known about the turtle patrol and the efforts to protect the turtles along our beaches.

When I heard of this tour, I thought it would be interesting, so I called and signed up.

They only have the tours on Thursdays, and you have to make an appointment beforehand. It’s free. ๐Ÿ™‚

Apparently I got there a little late (tho not by my watch). The room was full and they were already discussing all sorts of things about the program. Tip: Arrive early!

The tours are put on by volunteers. Thursday’s presentation was led by the team of John and Lynn Wright- “master naturalists”. They did a great job of explaining the situation with sea turtles today and what NOAA is doing with them in Galveston.

They started with a slide show explaining the facts that there are 7 total species of sea turtles and 5 of them can be found in the Gulf of Mexico. Those include (from smallest to largest): Kemp’s ridley, Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Green and Leatherback.

They showed us how to tell what kind of turtle we see (if they have 4 ‘scutes’ they’re either green or hawksbill, if they have 5 they’re either Kemp’s ridley or loggerhead- leatherback doesn’t have any).

They described turtle life cycles and what kind of food they liked to eat. They showed some amazing movies of the arribada from the late 1950’s. Thousands of female sea turtles arriving on the Texas beaches.

Then they showed a slide telling the sad story of their decline since we’ve become more ‘advanced’. Decimating all 7 of the turtle species, by eating their eggs, catching them in nets while fishing for other species, killing them with our pollution (especially plastic), destroying their habitat…

They also mentioned a few things we can do to help protect the turtles. Mainly- reduce your use of resources, especially plastic. Dispose of trash properly. Reuse and recycle. Help clean up the beaches and waterways. Take care with your fishing gear. If you see a sea turtle, its tracks or nest on the beach call 1-866-TURTLE-5ย 

I learned yesterday that the Kemp’s ridley has been designated the official state sea turtle of Texas. The Wrights informed us that in 1985 there were 400 nests after a large drop in numbers, in 2017 there were 353. They found 3 right here in Surfside (and 1 on Quintana)! They said there’s been some recovery. I hope so.

After the slide show, the Wrights led us over to the turtle barn where we could see all the little turtles. First, we got a chance to see how a TED (turtle excluder device) works. The kids were happy to run through the net and escape- acting as surrogate sea turtles. ๐Ÿ˜‰

NOAA has kind of a conflict of interest here. They are supposed to help the fishermen, and they are supposed to help the sea turtles. They are doing a lot of studies to try and come up with answers to solve many issues surrounding our ocean resources.

One of those studies is to do with testing TEDs. The objective is to find a way to increase the survival rates of any sea turtles (and other by catch) that get caught up in a shrimp boats net. The turtles in the turtle barn are all about 1.5 years old. They’re raised in Galveston til they get to be about 2. Then they are sent over to Florida for the tests.

They’re placed in larger tanks and allowed a few weeks/months to acclimatize themselves. Then they’re taken out to sea and working with a team of shrimpers, divers, and scientists the turtles are run through the nets, out the TEDs and collected again afterwards. After the turtle finishes its run through the TED, it’s released to the wild. The scientists will use the data to refine the TEDs and other fishing gear.

The barn was full of turtles (hawksbills), at least a few dozen, all about 1-2 ft long. They swam around in small plastic containers set inside larger tanks of filtered seawater. We were warned not to touch the turtles or put our hands in the water (it’s a ‘federal offense’). If something fell in the water, they would have to drain the whole tank and replace the water due to concerns about contamination. ๐Ÿ™

I felt kind of sad for all those little turtles, swimming around in their tiny little tanks, but they told us that if they were all allowed to swim together they would fight and/or eat each other. They said the turtles didn’t notice or care that they were stuck in such small containers, they would circle around forever and never know the difference. I suppose, but I still felt bad for them. ๐Ÿ™

I also wondered why they weren’t raising more turtles- in a breeding program. Like they did with the whooping cranes down in Port Aransas. I’d hate to see the turtles go extinct. With only 353 nests (of Kemp’s ridleys) on the Texas beaches last year it wouldn’t take much to wipe them out. I asked John about it. He said in Texas the focus was on finding nests and moving them to Padre Island which was safer for them and where they’d be released to return later. There were other programs around the world that raised the turtles for a higher survival rate on release.

I recommend the turtle tour for anyone interested in marine science or sea turtles. The Wrights were very knowledgeable and great with answering any and all questions. Hopefully the research done there at NOAA will help more sea turtles survive (and also help the fishermen with better results and less bycatch). I’d love to see more turtles out at sea and maybe even find a nest on the beach one day. It would be fantastic to see an arribada like the one in the film they showed us. Let’s hope we can make that happen. ๐Ÿ™‚

This looks like the video they showed, but there was no sound and they said the video was taken in Texas. This video is from Mexico it might be a different one. I found it on youtube.

PS- This is my Just Jot it January post for today. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Today’s prompt is: memories. Well, they’re only a day or so old, but I think they count. ๐Ÿ™‚

Maritime Monday: July 18th 2016

I’ve always enjoyed this Maritime Monday series from Monkey Fist and so glad they’re back again. Thanks to Monkey Fist and toย gCaptainย for promoting them. There’s so much interesting history, science, art, music, movies, culture and just all around maritime fun. ๐Ÿ™‚

I hope you enjoy this weeks collection of maritime stuff in Maritime Monday…

Scientists call for better plastics design to protect marine life Improved materials would encourage recycling and prevent single-use containers from entering the oceans ย โ€œ[It comes from] 60 years of being a throwaway society,โ€ Thompson said. Most of the plastic litter comes from single-use items, which have been inadequately disposed of and not recycled. โ€œThey have [โ€ฆ]

Source:ย Maritime Monday for July 18th, 2016 – gCaptain

PS- My first job as third officer was on a sister ship to the Okeanos Explorer. Another T-AGOS ship, theย USNS Invincible.


They Were Awesome!

In spite of the weather Thursday, there was a damn big crowd on the beach for a weekday afternoon. They were forecasting rain in the morning and scattered showers in the afternoon. I took a chance and drove up there anyway. Must’ve been a common thought. ๐Ÿ˜‰


Can you see a turtle there? Neither can I. But it was there, behind all those people tracking it down the beach.

The Houston Zoo was going to release a total of 9 rehabilitated sea turtles they had been caring for. Some were Kemp’s Ridleys, 3 were loggerheads. All had been brought to the zoo due to some kind of injury.

It started spitting rain on me less than 10 minutes after I left the house, but since Stewart Beach in Galveston is over an hours drive from my house, I figured I might as well continue.

I made it to the beach and found the location for where they were going to release the sea turtles just in time for the start. Or what was supposed to be the start of the ‘show‘. No turtles, but the rain sure did start.

Surprisingly, hundreds of people still hung out (in the rain) for at least a half hour before the turtle delivery trucks showed up. The turtles were happily riding along in big plastic tanks full of sea water. It was another 15-20 minutes before the 1st turtle made it’s appearance.

Volunteers from the Houston Zoo, NOAA, and the Turtle Patrol were on hand to walk the turtle down the gauntlet of curious bystanders and explain a bit about them. Information sheets, pamphlets and stickers were passed out to the crowd too. Hopefully, this will help people know what to do if they happen to find a turtle or nest. So far this year, they’ve found a total of 159 nests on Texas beaches. They’ve even found 3 right here- 2 at Surfside beach and 1 at Quintana beach. ๐Ÿ™‚

It was frustrating to follow the rules and stand behind the fences, waiting for the volunteers to come close enough where we could actually see a turtle through the crowds surrounding them. People were reaching up, out and over- trying to get a good shot. Many people were just allowed to ignore the barricades and follow the turtles from the truck all the way down to the water. Nice for them, but it ruined it for the rest of us. ๐Ÿ™

Like the lady beside me yelled, “I didn’t come all the way from Indiana just to see your ass!”. So right!

I managed to get a few good shots, The zoo will be putting video and photos on their website too and I expect it even made the news Thursday night. Sorry, but I was just too tired the last couple of days to post this in time for you to turn on the news.

It was really awesome to be able to see this release in person. Happy it was daytime so I could get some decent pictures. I still hope to see a wild one someday. Without the crowds. If you see one, don’t bother it. All of them are endangered. “If you see a sea turtle, tracks or hatchlings on the beach immediately callย 1-866-TURTLE-5 (1-866-877-8535)”.ย 



Filthy-Minded Teenager

Filthy-Minded Teenager | OnEarth Magazine.

This sure sounds like a great idea. It looks feasible. It’s great to hear about kids coming up with such new and interesting ideas. We sure can use all the help we can get on coming up with practical solutions to all the problems we have (mostly self inflicted).

A comment below the article (ย, leads to another really great article about the issue of plastic polluting the oceans.

So this might not really be a solution after all. Maybe at least its a starting point. So far, I haven’t heard (but Stiv Wilson has) of anybody else coming up with anything to try to get rid of all that crap floating around out there in the middle of the ocean and washing up on our beaches. ๐Ÿ™

Read both articles for a good idea of what’s really happening out there.

NOAA announces end of traditional paper nautical charts

NOAA announces end of traditional paper nautical charts – Professional Mariner

Oh NOoooooo!! As a navigation officer, I have used both paper charts and a few different kinds of electronic charts. I MUCH prefer paper!

There are so many things I can think of where paper charts would be better. Especially for small boat operations. Especially for sailboats. First of all, they are very limited in the available power on board. What happens when the power goes out? At least with paper charts, you could still make your way safely to a port of your choosing. With only electronic charts, you would be lost (literally). ๐Ÿ™

Lots of people do like the electronic charts, they’re easy to use (sometimes), but I personally think they can be dangerous (not ONLY when the power goes out). For one thing, its not as easy to get a good overview, to see the big picture, as on a paper chart. For another thing, its harder to make sure what you set it up for is still what you wanted when you are using it. For another thing, it’s very easy to become complacent using them.

Yeah, it’s supposed to be so much easier to use electronic and especially to keep them all updated. I don’t think so. AND, we are still required to keep paper charts on-board if we don’t have a backup to an electronic chart.

I don’t even want to get into the whole thing of all the required ‘training’ that’s being forced on us because of the new electronic chart requirements (but I will since its such a big deal). ๐Ÿ˜‰

We didn’t need to spend many thousands of dollars to get trained to use a paper chart. Or re-take that expensive training for every ship we might sail on that had a chart from another country. I could use American charts, or I could use BA charts and I would NOT have to take another expensive class to learn how to use the different style of chart.

That’s NOT how things work with electronic charts. The IMO in its ultimate wisdom has decided that we will have to be trained in a ‘ship specific’ ECDIS course! OK, call me a Luddite, but paper still has an important place IMHO and I still want some! SO, now what?

Will we have to go get BA charts from the UK now? ๐Ÿ™

NOAA Identifies Lurking Environmental Threats

NOAA Identifies Lurking Environmental.

This is from Marine Link. I’m hoping this means more work for us out here in the Gulf of Mexico (and around the country). Salvage operations are always interesting. ๐Ÿ™‚

Can Technology End Pirate Fishing? | gCaptain

Can Technology End Pirate Fishing? | gCaptain

I’m not sure where I sit on this one. On the one hand, I HATE how “they” are constantly spying on us, everywhere we go (NOT talking about just the fishermen- we are ALL spyed on continuously here in the supposed land of the free). On the other hand, I do agree that pirate fishing IS a problem and needs to be dealt with. I remember when I was sailing as captain of a tuna purse seiner in the South Pacific and we caught another boat we thought was fishing illegally. Against the objections of my crew, the 1st time we caught them, we gave them the benefit of the doubt. It was ‘possible’ (not very likely) that he was not cheating, so we didn’t report him. The 2nd time, we caught him doing the same thing, illegal fishing on a FAD (fish attracting device), I reported him to our (USA) fisheries dept, (after checking in with our port captain). They asked for and I sent in photos of the other fishing vessel. They never contacted me or anyone on my vessel again so although they SAID they were going to investigate, I don’t think they ever did. My fishmaster was furious the other guy was allowed to get away with it (illegal fishing operation) and I would not allow HIM to. So, the cheating goes on since no one is caught and punished even when there is evidence. The fish keep getting caught without any chance of replacing themselves and sooner or later they are going to run out in the Atlantic and Pacific, just like they did (bottom fish) here in the Gulf of Mexico years ago.