Slow Down For Sea Turtles, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Loggerhead hatchling heads to sea. (Photo NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service website.)
Loggerhead hatchling heads to sea. (Photo NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service website.)

Miracles abound all around us, but sometimes they are hard to “see.” Life harden us, or keeps us so busy that sometimes we forget. One miracle I have been aware of most of my life is the journey of the sea turtles, especially the loggerheads, that hatch along our Atlantic shores here in our Indian River Lagoon region.

When I was a kid, during early summer my mother and father used to take my brother, sister,  and I on midnight turtle walks. This was Stuart in 1974. Not many people lived here. We kids would watch in complete amazement the gigantic mother turtles emerge from the sea to drop their eggs, like slimy ping-pong balls, into a deep hole meticulously dug while tears rolled down their faces.

Sea turtle laying eggs, public photo.
Sea turtle laying eggs, public photo.

“She is crying,” my mother would say…

Knowing that mom had borne us, we kids wondered about all this, but were soon swept up again in the dropping, the slow plopping of those eggs. Maybe a hundred or so of them…Hours later it seemed the giant and mysterious turtle— that my dad said had been on the Earth when dinosaurs roamed—would make her way back to the ocean. The stars overhead, clear and shining, revealed life’s great mystery. The turtle gone, her tracks reflecting in the moonlight, our family felt bonded having witnessed this ancient ritual…

These memories have stayed with me….

Over the years, I volunteered as a turtle scout and  learned about the loggerhead’s maybe 8000 mile migration in the Atlantic Ocean and how they have magnetite in their brains and are capable of reading God’s compass….I learned about how after floating around and hiding in the seaweed for up to twelve years they eventually find their way  home to their birth beach, stay in area lagoons or “safe areas”, and not until maybe 30 years or so, if female, lay their own eggs…

Migration route loggerhead sea turtle.
Migration route loggerhead sea turtle.
Front page of Stuart News 6-15-15.In Defense of Turtles a release story.
Front page of Stuart News 6-15-15.In Defense of Turtles a release story.

Yesterday there was a photo on the front page of the Stuart News, “In Defense of Sea Turtles.” A wonderful article about Inwater Research Group’s releasing of the animals.

Ironically, the day before Ed and I had gone to Indian River Side Park to walk our dogs by the shoreline and found a dead juvenile loggerhead  that had been killed by a boat hit. I called the Florida Wildlife Commission and reported the animal. They were very helpful. I talked to a nice young man named “David” in Jacksonville. He said there were only six people in the entire state covering reported deaths like this juvenile sea turtle….pathetic…

Broken shell from boat hit.
Dead loggerhead with broken shell in IRL from boat hit.(JTL)

While waiting on hold, I couldn’t help but think about how this young sea turtle until now had beat all the odds. Only one in approximately 4000 make it maturity, after swimming around in those ocean currents for years, avoiding predators, and reading the magnet of  the Earth in a way we humans still have not completely figured out….how amazing that this turtle found its way home only to be stuck by a speeding boat……

Not an inspirational end to a miracle.

I share this story not be negative but in hope that boaters in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon will keep an eye out and SLOW DOWN.

As Ed and I meandered home, I looked back and saw the turtle in the dark waves, as I was told to leave it there….I thought to myself, “a dead and broken sea turtle in the polluted and dying Indian River Lagoon—now that is a tragic metaphor for our times…..”

This is what we must live to change.

The loggerhead lies dead along the shoreline of the Indian River Lagoon. (Photo JTL 6-14-15)
The loggerhead lies dead along the shoreline of the Indian River Lagoon. (Photo JTL 6-14-15)

Live Science,migration of the loggerhead sea turtle: (http://m.livescience.com/21080-loggerhead-turtle-migration.html)

Florida Wildlife Commission:(http://myfwc.com)

Inwater Research Group: (http://inwater.org)

Sea Turtles Space Coast IRL: http://www.seaturtlespacecoast.org/about-us/indian-river-lagoon/

 

3 thoughts on “Slow Down For Sea Turtles, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

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