Sunday, May 11, 2008

I Saw A Turtle!

Not that some people don't see them every day...but yesterday was one of those warm, calm spring days when you know that the snorkeling will be world class here in the Keys.

Just offshore one of our favorite spots, a few short miles north of Key West, I came face to face with a green turtle. (That's not the same one in the photo above, but you get the idea....)

The one we saw was about 18 inches across the shell, measured lengthwise. On the right rear of its shell, approximately at the 4 o'clock position, there was a chunk missing. Most probably this was caused by a collision with a motorboat propeller.

It took one look at us over its shoulder and high-tailed it out into deeper water--a smart fellow. I hadn't seen one so close up since I lived in the middle Keys in the early 70's. They were more plentiful then.

In fact, turtle steak was still on the menu of many restaurants. A few turtles were still brought in to the fish houses in Marathon. If you've ever seen one butchered, it's a sight that you probably didn't forget.

Having seen it, that's one of the reasons that I recognized the remains of a much larger turtle on the bottom as I swam back to shore. Who knows what happened to that one. A collision with a motorboat? Death from ingestion of plastic or some kind of man made debris?

The point is, it's good to know that some of them are still around. And it's a reminder of how precious our environment is here, and how important is the work of the few who exert considerable effort to preserve a little of what we had here for future generations, no matter how thankless that task seems at the present time.

Here's another picture showing the "bountiful harvest" at the "turtle kraals" in Key West Bight earlier in the last century (probably sometime before 1935). Turtles were still harvested as late as the mid 1970's. A couple of current Key West old timers, who contrived to have retirement homes in the Bahamas, were heard bragging about dining on fresh turtle, as if it were their birthright. Too bad they didn't take care of what they had, rather than giving it away for the price of a house.

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