THE LACK OF KNOWLEDGE, THE GREATEST ENEMY OF OUR SEAS
With joy I received the news from one of my thesis students that in the touristic beach of “Crucita” the egg laying of a sea turtle has come to clatch. A deep happiness surround us while seeing the tiny turtles or neonates coming out of their shells and intuitively looking for the light of the sea, where the likelihood of being depredated may be significantly diminished.
Unfortunately not all the news have a happy ending, many of the turtles are laying their eggs in places that are highly contaminated by humans.
Eduardo Barahona Medina
Eduardo Barahona has a PhD in natural resources conservation from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid, Spain. He holds a Master's Degree in Environmental Science and Technology from the same university and a Bachelor's Degree in Biological Sciences from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador. He has worked as a researcher in the area of ecology and plant reproduction. Currently, he is the director of the Marine Biology career at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Ecuador-Manabí, located in Bahía de Caráquez.
And I’m not merely referring to the contamination by garbage, mainly plastics such as straws, cups or bottles which while making human life much easier, have become a real threat to these marine organisms. But I’m also referring to the light, to the noise of the big cities and believe it or not, to the lack of knowledge regarding nature.
The light of the cars, the public lighting on the piers or just the curious tourist with the camera flash, leads the inexperienced neonate to confuse the sea with the road, the pier or the camera. This artificial light disorientates the vulnerable reptile on a path that leads to death. A death that will always be present throughout its life but that is even more evident in the sand of the sea contaminated by man, perhaps more destructive than plastic trash itself.
There are sensitive people who want to have a positive effect but unfortunately due to a total lack of knowledge about nature, they achieve the opposite, that is, a destructive effect. Many think that if they catch the newborn turtle in their hands and take it to the sea they are helping. However, this is not the case, the neonate must walk on his own to strengthen his muscles and be able to move in the sea fleeing from his possible predators. If the newborn doesn’t make the route on its own until the sea, it will not have the necessary strength in its legs that have evolved like fins to move in the sea. Goodwill is not always the solution to this problem.
Another vitally important fact, is that the newborn records the distance traveled from the nest to the sea in his memory. Indeed, surprisingly when the adult female is ready to leave the sea to lay the eggs, it will remember the traveled distance when it hatched in order to calculate the ideal place where its eggs can successfully hatch.
This is just one example out of many others that people don’t know, as well as the reason why they haven't managed to cohabit in a respectful relationship with others in this common house that is our planet. Our selfish vision has placed the human being as the center of this planet, and has wanted everything to revolve around our comfort, poorly understood progress. It is time to expand our vision and focus not only on forests and mountains, but also on seas. This is where the human being is in lower density, and perhaps this might explain the lack of knowledge regarding its inhabitants and what's happening.
It is terrible to see those artificial islands of plastic garbage covering the surface of the oceans. It is even worst to see researchers diving not among coral reefs or shoals in varied colors and shapes, but to see them dodging tons of garbage that float and sink into the sea. Furthermore, it’s heartbreaking to see whales, dolphins, finless and often still-living sharks trapped in potential death nets.
Ecuador is not excluded from these macabre scenes that are disseminated through social networks. Recently we witnessed an indiscriminate fishing in our natural treasure, the Galápagos Archipelago. Economic ambition doesn’t respect protected areas, just as animals do not understand about territorial limits or areas imposed by man. There is so much to do, so much to investigate, so much to discover in this so unknown territory for those of us who have adapted to terrestrial habitats, we, the greatest predators or, better said, devastators of the planet.
We have an incalculable richness in those deep waters of the ocean, in those marine-coastal environments, in our estuaries, mangroves, rivers, lagoons and wetlands. What is more, we do not even understand the difference between these ecosystems, and what is worse we do not know about their inhabitants and their behavior. That is the idea with this article, to understand that the lack of knowledge is the worst threat, because nobody loves the unknown. Now is the time to come close to those other worlds where water is the source of life and where we can still live without polluting it.