Chumming the bay or a rare sighting?

Actualizado: 9 de feb de 2021

We have been made aware of recent videos filmed in Akumal which are now circulating through social media. The videos give us great concern as they show green turtles feeding on barracuda carcasses.

Below are the still images captured from the video.

So what’s the big deal?

There are two main concerns here: the ecological factors and safety concerns.

The Ecological Factors

First, we know green turtle hatchlings and juveniles are omnivores; they feed on plant life, as well as crustaceans and jellyfish for the first years of their lives. However, as green turtles grow and mature, they become herbivores.

The size of the green turtles in these videos indicates that they are juveniles, approximately four or five years old. Witnessing them feeding on the flesh of a fish is certainly a bit of an anomaly and begs the question, has their feeding behavior changed? Why? Is this a human-related influence or is this just a very rare sighting?

Second, how did the barracuda carcasses get inside the bay? As part of the Fish Refuge, there is no fishing inside the bay. Additionally, one of the guidelines states that fish should not be cleaned within the bay. Did a fishing boat clean the barracudas and then dump the carcasses? Or did a tour company use the carcasses as chum; to bait the water in hopes of attracting other fish?

Perhaps the better question is where did the barracuda come from? Was it caught within the Fish Refuge—an area declared by the government almost eight kilometers in length and 1.5 kilometers out from shore? Rather than complying with the catch and release protocols of the Fish Refuge, where the barracudas were caught, cleaned, and dumped before coming back to shore?

There are many questions here, but the red flag has been raised.

Safety Concerns

What makes Akumal Bay a draw for families and visitors are the calm, clear waters. The reef crest creates a natural barrier for waves and larger predator fish. However, if the waters have been baited on purpose and this continues, it is just a matter of time before this attracts large predators inside the bay and possible interactions/injuries. In the past we have seen a resident moray eel, who was accustomed to being fed sport fish leftovers, bite a swimmer’s leg. Either way, having carcasses or bait in the bay could pose a safety concern for swimmers and snorkelers.

What’s being done?

CEA is not an authority to enforce the laws. We can only monitor and report to authorities and leave it to the appropriate branches of the government to step in. So far, we have informed the federal authorities, including, the port captain, SEMARNAT, and CONAPESCA, all in charge of nautical activities, biodiversity, and the Fish Refuge, respectively.

Additionally, we continue to educate and encourage visitors, guides, and companies to be mindful of the guidelines and to understand and respect the fragility of this environment.

#turtles #AkumalFishRefuge #tortugas

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