CHASING DOWN THE MUSE: Sea inspires conservation efforts

I rose early one morning to catch the colored light. That’s not quite true. I was already up, sleep-deprived and cranky.

Wild horses had run the beach all night, and the dogs had never ceased their protective barking. Between the drip-drip of the broken toilet and the hoof beat/bark-bark it was a long and restless evening.

As usual, the sunrise over Isla Carmen, just offshore from Loreto, washed away any signs of dismay. Red-orange colors flooded the sea’s surface and the early bird feeders skimmed the water and dove for tiny fish. Magic. That’s the word that always comes to mind when I’m “part” of the sunrise.

The night before was girl’s night out. Linda Kinninger, Mary Lampros, Jeanne Reilly and I shared dinner at Islas, a local restaurant owned by Laguna Beach folks Tom and Michele Reynolds.

The eatery is painted in vibrant warm colors which creates a great stage for camaraderie. The restaurant doubles as an art gallery, with special focus on local artists. The work changes on a regular basis which provides a constant change in décor.

Our dinner was sumptuous — fresh fish and salads — the conversation engaging, and the service attentive. As usual, when women get together, there is a wonderful relaxed energy and flow.

We drifted back to the recent dinner, hosted by Eco-Alianza de Loreto and Pro Peninsula at the Kinningers’ lovely home, in support of Grupo Tortuguero.

The group, one of many that the Kinningers generously support, was holding their annual conference in Loreto. As in years past, Linda graciously entertained an “intimate” crowd of 100 or so “turtle folks.”

The evening started with cocktails around the pool, followed by introductory remarks by Laura Escobosa, the director of Eco-Alianza, and J. Nichols, Marine Biologist of the Ocean Conservancy, among other prestigious organizations. A sit-down dinner completed the evening.

The Grupo Tortuguero is a network of individuals, communities, organizations and institutions from around the world, dedicated to sea turtle conservation.

It was formed in 1999 with specific focus on addressing the main threats to the sea turtle survival. Five sea turtle species inhabit the Eastern Pacific; all of them are endangered (IUCN Red List, 2000) and four are ecologically extinct.

Sea turtle mortality increased with the direct take by poachers who sell their meat and eggs on the black market and by incidental capture in fishing nets, trawls and longlines.

In the early weeks of January, hundreds of tiny turtles were born on the sandy shores of Loreto. They burst through their egg shells and clumsily made their way toward their watery home. It boggles the mind the type of extraordinary journey they undertake. Beginning off the coasts of California and Baja California, these sea-swimmers travel with a kind of oblong sweep toward Ecuador, over to the Sea of Japan, and return to the Eastern Pacific.

Over our Islas dinner, Linda told a story about “Adelita,” a female loggerhead tagged as part of a joint project of the University of Arizona and Centro Regional de Investigaciones Pesqueras — Ensenada, Baja California. Wallace J. Nichols was involved in the tagging and tracking endeavor of Adelita as she migrated across the Pacific Ocean.

Adelita was released on Aug. 10, 1996, just off a small town in Mexico called Santa Rosaliita and started immediately across the Pacific. Her journey is important because it drew attention to the theory that loggerhead turtles foraging off the west coast of Mexico and California actually nest at beaches in Japan. Adelita proved beyond doubt that this theory is correct.

More information on Adelita and turtles can be found at www.turtles.org.

One of the most appealing aspects of spending time in Loreto has been the relationships built around a common goal of protection and preservation of the water and land of this remarkable desert destination. Resources are always strapped, and so a combination of education combined with donations of time, money, supplies, and guidance are constantly needed.

Linda Kinninger, along with Laguna Beach resident Erik Cutter (Baja Life Magazine), are two of the founding members of Eco-Alianza de Loreto, A.C., the key environmental organizations in the area. This nonprofit group is comprised of environmental organizations and individuals committed to working collaboratively to protect and preserve the coastal, marine and terrestrial eco-systems, while promoting smart growth strategies and viable communities in the region. Among their stated goals are to inspire leadership, develop collaborative networks, and expand public education and participation.

As the sun rises higher and the day spreads out before me, I gather myself for work, dog walks and the usual chores. I remind myself of the blessing of being here one more morning, of witnessing the sky shift from dark to light, and the great glee of being by the sea.


CATHARINE COOPER loves wild places. She can be reached at cooper@catharinecooper.com

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