Are turtle release programs educational or exploiting sea turtles for profit?

The results are in for this edition of “Vallartenses Voice!”

After receiving some great feedback from the people of Puerto Vallarta, we understand the turtle release events much better and hope to educate others on this topic.

We originally asked the question because we were unsure how healthy it was to hold turtles in captivity while waiting to organize release parties, and if doing this for money or PR was something that should be supported.

When mixing tourism, education, environment, and wildlife into one event, you are bound to find some people who are seeking profit and PR over education and wildlife preservation. This seems to be the case with the popular sea turtle release programs in Puerto Vallarta.

“When I first moved here people would actually be selling the turtle eggs – now that is very against the law,” explains one long-time resident of Puerto Vallarta. This would explain our concern, had the turtle egg selling mentality remained but found new ways to profit due to law changes.

Upon further discussion we learned more about these events, and how to choose which event to support and which event puts profit ahead of wildlife preservation.

One reader explains that releases should happen in the evenings. Sea turtles run towards the brightest light, being the sun or moon. On the west coast, the sun sets over the ocean and therefore turtles should be released at times when the sun or moon is over the water.

Silva recalls a story of a turtle release event that was for PR purposes in the afternoon that became a feeding frenzy for birds as the turtles scrambled in confusion running towards the sun, which was still over the mountains sending the turtles running in the wrong direction.

Under the natural ecosystem without human interference, only one in 1,000 sea turtles will survive into adulthood.

Silva recommends two knowledgeable companies who take great care at their events.

1. Grupo Ecológico
2. Campamento Tortuguero

Like so many topics involving wildlife and human interference in the natural ecosystem, there are benefits and drawbacks. When planning to attend a release event, first make sure the release is happening while the sun or moon are over the bay. Second, find out if the event is overseen by a marine biologist or a bartender.

Each individual needs to make a choice that makes them the most comfortable. In nature only one in 1,000 of these baby turtles will survive into adulthood, if the event you choose can protect the baby turtles from predators on the beach, such as birds, then perhaps these little guys have better chance of surviving.

An educated choice is the best choice.

Thank you to our readers for educating us more about the sea turtle release events.

1 Response
  1. Mary Beth Maria O'Connor

    Most of the events I have seen are done on the day that the turtles hatch or close to it Due to the extensive development in the area, the ecological police HAVE to protect the eggs so the “natural” leaving of the eggs and waiting for them to hatch is no longer possible. When I first moved here you people would actually be selling the turtle eggs here – now that is very against the law.

    That said, I think that in general, the goal of preserving the species as much has can be done despite all the development includes making people aware of what is going on and for that reason these “release” events are important. I would defer to an expert opinion as I certainly am not an expert.

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