8th Apr - 11 Apr 2013 - Turtle Tagging on Conception Island, Bahamas

Thu 11 Apr 2013 22:44
It was around high water, as we exited the cut at Calabash Bay, Long Island, but we were soon motoring into a 2 metre swell, as we made for Conception Island, 20nm away.   It brought back many memories, as we approached the anchorage, as we were last there with Steve & Chris off Scott Free.
At the anchorage at Conception Island and a view from Nimue’s cockpit
Mating season, as we saw hundreds of Tropicbirds flying over us.  Conception has the largest concentration of nesting Tropicbirds in The Bahamas.
Steve off Foxy Lady  was very familiar with these islands and knew some of the best snorkel sites, so we spent our first full day on the island doing some fabulous drift snorkelling.   Conception Island is an unspoiled sanctuary for migratory birds and an important feeding habitat for juvenile green and hawksbill sea turtles. Since 1985 turtles in The Bahamas are an endangered species and in order to protect them, the University of Florida research unit has conducted an on going research program in the lagoon. So what is  “turtle tagging” all about? This involves catching the turtle in the first instance and then, if it has not been identified previously,  is weighed, measured and tagged.  With each one uniquely identified, it is easy track their progress!  
Steve gave me his underwater camera, so some shots of Michael & David and the beautiful coral
The following day, it was all systems go and we motored our dinghies for a 2 mile journey to the lagoon on Conception Island.  Once inside the lagoon, Barbara off Foxy Lady  handed us a large net and then we were sent off to catch turtles.............!!!  This isn’t as easy as you may think and after many failed attempts and getting my wrists twisted with the weight of the net going underneath the dinghy, we took a different approach. ...... Every once in a while, the turtles would come up to the surface for air and the more we chased them, the more they came up for air.   It was quite a funny sight to see, as once the turtles had come up for air, they would then shoot off in the opposite direction; so at one stage Michael was driving the dinghy round and round in circles in a real ‘cat and mouse’ chase!  Eventually the time came when the plan came to fruition........  I dropped the net into the water.................the turtle came up for air............. got it............and then came the most enormous grin on our faces!!   We took the turtle over to Foxy Lady’s tender, where each captured turtle was carefully laid on it’s back on the cockpit sole.
So off to catch another and another and another............and we eventually caught 9 turtles.  By this time we had been joined by a lovely Norwegian couple who were exploring the lagoon in their dinghy and ended up helping us to find and chase down the turtles.  In total we all caught 16 turtles, so Foxy Lady’s tender  ended up in being completely covered with a carpet of upside-down turtles?  The lagoon had a very shallow reef opening, so we had to leave before the tide went out, otherwise we would be left” high and dry” in the lagoon for further 6 hours!  After anchoring nearby a beach, the process of tagging the turtles commenced.  . Each turtle was measured, weighed and a blue plastic tag clipped through it’s front leg.  At this point a red disposable ribbon was tied to the same point, which is easily identifiable and saves the same turtles being caught again!  Once the weighing and tagging was complete, we put he turtles back into the dinghies and took them over to the beach near the lagoon where they had been caught. It was then a case of carrying them up over the ridge back to the lagoon (easy with the small ones, but needed two men to carry the larger ones). Once at the lagoon, the turtles were all eager to make a quick getaway, although it took a few of them a while to get their bearings!  
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In the lagoon preparing to catch a turtle.  Net poised, but the little devil swam away............................
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Getting ready for another go and...................the dark object in front of our dinghy is the small green turtle and here I come.................
Preparing the net and outstretched ready for the catch..........................                                    BINGO!
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With turtle safely in the net, we took it over to Foxy Lady.  Happy faces and ready to hand over the turtle.
Aaaaah, aren’t they sweet?                                                                                                 On their backs in our dinghy
Steve off Motu getting the tags ready and Marja off Motu asking for a name where the turtle was caught
This one is called Anne and was caught just after the 2nd hole in the Lagoon
Steve off Foxy Lady measuring the turtle and then weighing it.................................
............... then the tag ....................................................................and finally the red ribbon
Good job done and the turtles don’t seem too unhappy
A good job done and time for a snorkel, so Steve off Foxy Lady  took us to another reef to explore.  Now by now, I was beginning to get quite comfortable with snorkelling and my breathing was becoming a lot easier.  But, it wasn’t long before my eye caught sight of a large grey object on the sea bed and I instantly knew it was a shark.  I kept calm and pretended I hadn’t seen it.  In fact, Steve saw the same shark and told me later, it was a 7 or 8ft Bull Shark (not to be messed with)!  So by the time I saw a nurse shark underneath a rock, I had become quite blasé and as long as they didn’t move, I was quite all right.  Whilst Michael and I were swimming together 2 Barracuda swam by, but then made a “U” turn and headed back to Michael.  He was prepared to take action, but they were more interested in seeing what David was up to, as he was snorkelling just beneath us!    Later on, whilst chatting with Barbara about sharks, she unwittingly said there was a theory that sharks are attracted to yellow known affectionately as “YUM YUM Yellow”.  “Yikes”, I cried, “my fins are yellow”!
We had such a great day, which concluded with everyone coming aboard (10 of us) Nimue for butternut squash risotto, which went down very well.  Back to the lagoon the following day, but no luck catching many turtles, as the water was really choppy and murky and the turtles seemed to have learnt to hide in deeper, shallower water or, above rocks. Nevertheless Foxy Lady  still managed to catch 4!
All aboard Nimue for butternut  squash risotto