Landing in Cozumel I was not sure what I was going to do for my volunteer project. I had called some of the travel agencies and looked up volunteering in Cozumel. The biggest tourist volunteer program is the Sea Turtle Salvation Project. The turtles nest from May to November, so I was a tad bit early for volunteering to help release baby sea turtles into the ocean. I was a lot disappointed. But will return to do this one day.
The Sea Turtle Program allows visitors in Cozumel to spend one or two nights on their vacation volunteering with the nightly brigades who monitor and track sea turtle nests. Along the eastern shore of the island two different types of turtles, green turtles and loggerhead turtles, come to lay their eggs. Turtles have been around for 245 million years. That’s right they have been around since the dinosaur age! They breath air and are cold blooded amphibians; but spend most of their life in the ocean. This means sea turtles like tropical warm water. Only female turtles leave the protection of the water to nest, most male turtles never leave the ocean.
The female turtle returns to the exact same beach she was hatched to lay her eggs and nest. Most female turtles do not become mature enough to lay eggs until they are 20 years old. And at that time they ride the ocean currents back to the beach where they were once hatched many years before. The female turtles nest approximately 6 times a year and lay 150-200 eggs each time. Protecting the turtle nest is the volunteer’s job while working with a brigade of scientist and personnel from the Sea Turtle Salvation Program.
Since I was to early for all the action, I was faced with the issue of “what am I going to do?” My goal is to volunteer at every place I visit – I absolutely have to give back and not just take. I did not give up on this mission and actually helped sea turtles by cleaning the beaches they will return to in May to November to nest. It was only a tiny contribution on my part; but what I saw and how I felt made me realize how important my mission to make the world aware of the destruction we have and are causing the worlds oceans even more crucial. To be 100% honest, I have not slept well since returning – only thinking about what can I do I am only one person who really cares a whole whole lot about the ocean and marine life – So how can I make a difference in this world and get others to care a whole whole lot too. I am not sure but I am going to try!
This was such an emotional day – to think each piece of plastic had a story and person who it belonged too and some how it ended in a pile of seaweed on the beach where the turtles will be laying eggs next month. That one person used this plastic for a moment to eat a piece of watermelon at their kids picnic or a toothbrush for a few months. They screwed the cap off their water bottle or coke bottle threw it on the ground, left it at the beach while playing volleyball and then walked home thinking someone will pick it up or perhaps never to think about it again.
Here on this beach I see that the ocean swallowed the trash and now there are floating landfills of plastic and seaweed infested with plastic washed up on the beach – in the duration of this many animals are mistaking this for food and ingest the plastic. Plastic does not breakdown and birds, turtles, fish, plankton, shrimp, lobsters, crab, dolphins, sharks, and whales all eat the trash. Sea birds take the plastic back to their young thinking it is food and the baby bird dies from malnutrition and not being able to process the plastic.
As you can see in these photos – the plastic is so entangled in the seaweed that it was almost better to take the whole chunk of seaweed. When I would lift up a piece of seaweed it reminded me of a blanket, covering millions of very small pieces of plastic.
We only cleaned 100-200 feet of beach – and there was so much we would never get all of it. A few times I just wanted to cry thinking of my own ignorance and all humans ignorance and greed. We have abused the earth and damaged all environments – it is disgusting and we as humans and care takers of the earth have to take action. I know, if I do not do my part now – my life will be for nothing. I found my calling – and it is exactly what my heart called out to me as a little kid – be a voice for the environment and all living creatures who have no voice.
We are killing the oceans and soon from the water will be terrestrial destruction. As we have already committed to the destruction. People are blind to what is happening and we have to start reducing and reusing products – we can’t keep being blind
While traveling to that side of the island we saw so many large – very large iguanas! They were amazing! I wish I had a photograph of one…
I DID MY PART – CLEAN BEACH – (but frustrated it was only a small portion – so much more to do)
The beaches on the East side of Cozumel are beautiful and the sand is pure white. The surf is an amazing turquoise and the waves are huge. It made for the perfect day for clean up. The sun is setting and there is Henry’s truck in the distance. I think they were ready to take the trash to the bin and head off to The Money Bar for happy hour and celebration.
Not much, but a little bit cleaner and I feel overwhelmed by this. The effect of seeing the devastation from plastic use and the beauty of Cozumel made it hard for me to just walk away and not have cleaned more beach. There is so much more to do, it was endless and I felt like I could not do enough.
Tony , Jose, and Henry told me every month the school kids come clean the beaches. I thought that was so awesome. And I thought maybe I should go to Cozumel and teach for my next career. I am sure I would learn more than I would ever be able to give. The people in Cozumel are kind and love their island. I am so grateful they shared this special place with me.
No Very Merry UnEarth Day In Mexico Goes Without a Mexican Fiesta – To My New Friends!