Steven Smeltzer

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Homepage: http://www.stevenwsmeltzer.com

Scalloped Hammerhead - Elegance in Motion

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark- Elegance in Motion

A south swell has been running for several days and the wind is blowing briskly out of the north.  It is Friday morning and I am looking forward to scuba diving with the Hammerhead Shark.  The dive site for today is about an hour from Lahaina Harbor across the Pailolo Channel and on the northeastern end of Molokai.  This dive will take about five hours from the time we leave the harbor until our return.

I checked into the Lahaina Divers shop, whom I highly recommend, around 6:50 am. I have been diving with them in Maui for over 10 years.  They have great boats and a skilled and highly professional crew.  Lahaina Divers is the only dive operation that has a regular Hammerhead Shark dive to Molokai.  After checking in, I park my car and then head down to the boat slip.  After all of the divers are aboard and a short safety briefing from the crew we head for Molokai.  A

Large Scalloped Hammerhead

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark – Encounter with 12 foot female

few of the divers on board have done this dive, including myself, many times.  However, for most on board this will be their fist dive on Molokai and the first time with Hammerhead sharks.

The boat heads toward the dive site, staying close to the western shore of Maui, until we are almost directly across from the dive site.  The boat then makes a sharp turn to cross the channel.  The seas are running four to six feet with an occasional swell in excess of eight feet.  Some first timers on the boat are getting a bit nervous.  It takes about 25 to 30 minutes to cross over to Molokai and by that time we have a couple of divers on the boat that are sea sick.  This channel is one of the roughest in the Hawaiian islands.  Its name literally means “crazy fishermen”.  Because if someone was going to go fishing across this channel they must be crazy.

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark - Exploration

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark – Exploration

The captain of the boat gives us a 10 minute warning telling us it is time to put on our gear and get ready to enter the water.  We put on our wet suits, BC’s, and fins while sitting in assigned stations on the boat.  The water is rough so we wait on the crew to help us stand up and move into position at the back of the boat.  But, we don’t enter yet.  We wait for the captain to move the boat into position and give us the signal to enter the water.  The crew tells us “1 minute”, “30 seconds”, “captain divers are ready”, then we wait for the captain.  The back of the boat swings round toward the islet, then the captain yells “dive, dive, dive”.  Our group jumps almost in unison and we are all in the water within 15 seconds.

The surface is choppy and after making sure all divers are OK, we rapidly begin our descent.  The water is light to medium blue for the first thirty to forty feet with rays of sunlight filtering around us.  Then the water begins to slowly darken as we descend on the dive site know as Fish Rain.  The reef is on our right and blue water is to the left.  The bottom slopes gently downward from about 40 feet to around 120 feet.  While I love the reef, I am constantly looking into the blue, looking for a Scalloped Hammerhead Shark.

Fish Rain is located on Mokuhooniki Rock and is one of the most bio-diverse dive sites on the planet.  The density of marine species, the health of the corals and the presence of pelagics make this a must dive. But, again we have come to see the Hammerhead Shark.

Scalloped Hammerhead Close Up

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark Close Up

The dive starts out in the lee of the islet which is somewhat protected from the crazy waters of the Pailolo Channel.  While this site can on rare occasion be like glass, it most often has swells of 2 to 4 feet and can grow on occasion to well over 6 feet.  This is not a dive for the novice diver.  This is an advanced dive and anyone thinking about going should carefully consider their level of experience and confidence.

You enter the water quickly from a moving boat a quickly descend to around 50 feet.  After your dive group assembles you will slowly make you way around the Islet in an arc.  The dive is a drift dive and can be one of the most difficult dives you will every make due to the entry into and exit from the water.  Again this dive is not for the novice, but oh what a dive.  I have been on this site dozens and dozens of times yet it never ceases to amaze me.

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark

Scalloped Hammerhead In Close

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark In Close

The Scalloped Hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) is a species of hammerhead shark, and part of the family Sphyrnidae. This shark can be found over continental and insular shelves and in nearby deeper water. It is found in warm temperate and tropical waters, worldwide from 46°N to 36°S. It can be found down to depths over 500 m (1,600 ft), but is most often found above 25 m (82 ft).[10] During the day, they are more often found close to shore, and at night, they hunt further offshore. Adults are found alone, in pairs, or in small schools, while young sharks occur in larger schools.[1] see this Wikipedia article for more detailed information on Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks

The Scalloped Hammerhead Shark in Hawaii has been known to reach lengths of up to 13 feet however 6-8 feet is typically the average.  Near Mokuhooniki Rock, the Scalloped Hammerheads tend to be adults of 6 to 8 feet with the occasional shark measuring well over 10 feet.  These sharks can be found from very near the surface to about 130 ft.  We see them very often cruising just off the bottom of the channel between Molokai and Mokuhooniki Rock, where the depths run typically 100 to 130 feet.  We will see them in groups of 1 to 3 but many times you can see groups of 5 to 10 and occasionally many more.  On my best dive here I have just under 50 Scalloped Hammerheads and have been literally surrounded as I am taking photographs.

Observing Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks

These are magnificent creatures. It is a wonderful experience to remain absolutely still in the water and observe these sharks as they interact with you.  I have have had many occasions where sharks have swam with me for 10 to 15 minutes.  They are curious and will come in close to you and your group if you will remember a few key things:

  1. Keep your head on a swivel as you dive.  You want to be able to spot the sharks as soon as possible so your behavior does not cause them to move away from you
  2. When you see the sharks and you see they are heading in the general direction of your group slow down immediately and/or stop and observe their behavior
  3. If the sharks are moving away from your group keep swimming toward them and keep looking all around.  There are more than likely other sharks near by.
  4. Stay at 40 to 60 feet when you are looking for the sharks and then drop down to their depth when you see them.  This will conserve air and reduce the danger of nitrogen narcosis
  5. When the sharks are getting close to you stay still and let them swim to you.  I was getting ready for a wonderful encounter with a 12+foot female Scalloped Hammerhead Shark when a person in our dive group start swimming rapidly down towards the shark to get their “go-pro” shot.  The shark simply turned away and the diver probably did not get a good shot and the rest of the dive group was denied the experience of interacting with a large hammerhead.

As I have said before, if not my very favorite, definitely in my top five.  This site has an amazing reef, tremendous bio-diversity, a very healthy reef system, does not see many divers and it has ….. Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks.

If you are an advanced diver, this site is definitely for you.  Maholo nui loa and safe diving.

What a day, beautiful sky, little wind, flat seas, wonderful temperature and Whales.Lokikng for Whales

Grey Whales

Gray Whale

I love the southern coast of California.  Where we have the privilege to live next to one of the most diverse whale populations on the planet.

Numerous whales, can be seen traveling up and down the coast.  These include, the Gray Whale – Eschrichtius robustus, Blue Whale – Balaenoptera musculus, Humpback Whale – Megaptera novaeangliae, Minke Whale –  , Sperm Whale – Physeter macrocephalus, Pygmy sperm whale – Kogia breviceps, Brydes Whale – Balaenoptera cf. brydei, Sei Whale – Balaenoptera borealis, Baird’s beaked whale – Berardius bairdii, Blainville’s beaked whale – Mesoplodon densirostris, Ginkgo-toothed beaked whale – Mesoplodon ginkgodens, Perrin’s beaked whale –  Mesoplodon perrini, Stejneger’s beaked whale – Mesoplodon stejnegeri, Cuvier’s beaked whale – Ziphius cavirostris  and the Fin Whale – Balaenoptera physalus.  

All of these whales can be seen at different times during the year along the coast of Southern California.  Several of these whales have multiple thousand mile journeys every year, traveling between the rich feeding grounds off the coast of Alaska in the summer to the warmer waters of Mexico in the winter.

Gray Whales Migration

These amazing mammals can be seen beginning in November when they are heading south to the warm-water lagoons of the Baja peninsula and then again in February and March as then head north to the feeding grounds of the Bering sea.

By late December to early January, the first of these amazing creatures begin to arrive the calving lagoons of Baja. The first to arrive are usually pregnant mothers that look for the protection of the lagoons to give birth to their calves, along with single females seeking out male companions in order to mate.

The three primary lagoons that the whales seek in Baja California are Scamnon’s , San Ignacio and Magdalena. Scamnon’s was named after a notorious whale hunter in the 1850’s who discovered the lagoons and later became one of the first protectors of the Grays.

The California Gray Whales were called the devil fish until the early 1970’s.   At that time a fisherman in Laguna San Ignacio named Pachico Mayoral reached out and touched a Gray mother that kept approaching his boat. The fisherman have been interacting with the whales ever since.  Today the whales in Laguna San Ignacio are protected but it is possible to visit a whale camp and have the same experience that Pachico had.

Throughout February and March, the first Gray Whales to leave the lagoons are the males and single females. The other whales start leaving the lagoons once they have mated.  The whales then begin the long trek back north to their summer feeding grounds in the Bering seas. Pregnant females and nursing mothers with their newborn calves are the last to leave the lagoons. They leave only when their calves are ready for the journey, which is usually from late March to mid-April.

Gray whales appear most prominently in the wintertime, migrating south toward Mexico in the early winter and returning to Alaska in February and March. Humpback whales and blue whales migrate during the summer months, from early June to late September.

Knob Hill

Knob Hill, Lanai

Knob Hill is an interesting and very nice dive site.  It is fairly shallow about 55 to 60 feet (16 to 18 meters) and teeming with life.  However, it is often not possible to dive on this site due to strong currents .  The dive site is just off the coast of Lanai by the Four Seasons Hotel.  The name comes from a large rock formation near the surface that is supported by four columns.  This is a large dive site on the south side of Lanai that is quite exposed.  I have been diving around Lanai for over 12 years and have been on this site maybe three or four times.

Knob Hill Rating = 3.86 out of 5

  • Visibility – moderate to very good
  • Access – Moderate; boat only and 45 to 50 minutes from Lahaina Harbor
  • Current – moderate strong most of time
  • Depth to 60 ft / 18 m
  • Reef health Hard / Soft Corals – Very Good
  • Marine species variety – Very Good
  • Pelagics / Mammals / Turtles / Rays – moderate to good, typical at least 1 to 3 sightings up close, sometimes many more

The only reason this site is not rated higher, is the current makes it a very difficult dive site to dive 80% of the time.  If the current is mild this is an awesome site.

Knob Hill Overview

Knob Hill Reef, Steven W Smeltzer, Lanai

Knob Hill Reef

Knob Hill has a number of swim throughs and volcanic structures, such as the “table” above that make the site quite interesting.  The marine life on the site is varied and abundant.  You will almost always find large schools of Pennant Butterflyfishes along with a wide variety of other  Butterflyfishes, Dascyllus, Yellow Tangs, Sea Turtles, White-tip Reef Sharks, various eels and much more.  Once the boat is on the mooring at Knob Hill, the dive master make take you on several different routes around this expansive dive site.  The hard coral here is quite healthy due to the current and infrequent visits by divers.  There is a nice swim through / cave where you can frequently find White-tip Reef Sharks.  You can also see quite a few nudibranchs on this site and rare species such as the endemic Yellow-striped Coris and Reticulated Butterflyfish.

Knob Hill, White-tip Reef Shark, Steven W Smeltzer,

White-tip Reef Shark, Profile, Triaenodon obesus, (Rüppell, 1837), mano lalakea, Lanai, Hawaii

There is also a nice swim through / cave on the site where you can many times find White-tip Reef Sharks.  This shark in particular was quite curious and swam with me through the swim through.  He even gave me a nice profile. 🙂

Visit my blog page Hawaiian Dive Site Reviews, to view reviews of other great dives in Hawaii.

Visit my website for other underwater photographs and/or follow me on Twitter.

The pool is open…..

Scuba Diving Molokai can be awesome, especially at Mokuhooniki Rock. The reef here is one of the most interesting that I have dove on anywhere on the planet. The variety of marine species, the isolation and the relatively untouched environment make this a one of a kind location.  But……we all come for the Hammerheads.

scuba diving Molokai

Mokuhooniiki Rock, Molokai

Mokuhooniki Rock or islet is located at 21 07′ 40″N, 156 42’20″W just off the North eastern coast of the island of Molokai.  This dive site, also known as Fish Rain, is one of my top ten scuba diving sites in the world.

Interacting with such a variety of marine life combined with the opportunity to spend time with large pelagic species makes this a special place.  When scuba diving Molokai Mokuhooniki Rock, you  encounter Hammerhead sharks on almost every dive.  You will also see a rich and diverse ecosystem containing large schools of Damsels and Butterflyfish to Dolphins, to Tiger Sharks and much much more.  You will be hard pressed to find other dive sites that have the abundance and variety of marine life in such a pristine condition.  If you are on Maui and you are an advanced diver, you simply must do this dive.

Scuba Diving Molokai – The Adventure

Scuba Diving Molokai (Steven W Smeltzer)

Spinner Dolphins Molokai Hawaii

This site can be adventure diving at its peak.  It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to go from the harbor in Lahaina to Mokuhooniiki Rock.  Crossing the Pailolo (means crazy fishermen) channel alone can bring seasoned divers to their knees.  It can be quite rough.  This is not a beginners dive site.  In fact even if you are an advanced rated diver, you should be extremely comfortable exiting a moving boat and reentering a moving boat in potentially rough and choppy seas.  I have been on this site dozens of times and while it can be like glass, it is extremely rare.  The site can also have 6+ foot waves.  I have seen divers break ribs on their reentry and others become extremely agitated and near panic on the pick up.  I remember one dive in particular where the waves, even in the lee of the rock, were running about 8 to 10 feet.  As the boat came around to pick us up I was literally on the top of one wave looking down at the captain of the boat who was on the top deck of a double deck dive boat.  The boat was some 5 feet or so below me in the trough of a wave.  I was thinking this is going to be a very interesting pickup.

But……what a great scuba diving site.

When scuba diving Molokai at Mokuhooniiki Rock, you enter the dive site typically in the lee of the islet on the right above.  The

Scuba Diving Molokai (Steven W Smeltzer)

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark, Sphyrna lewini, Molokai Hawaii, Moku Ho’oniki Rock

crew will let you know about ten minutes before it is time to enter the water.  They will begin lining you up at the back of the boat one at a time.  You will  have your mask and fins on, BC inflated and be holding anything you want to take into the water with you, including cameras.  If you have not entered a dive site from a moving boat before this will a bit of an adventure for you.  Think of it as channeling your inner Navy Seal.  When you are lined up at the back of the boat, the captain will swing the boat around toward the islet and when all divers are ready, the crew will say Divers Ready. They will then begin counting down two minutes, one minute, etc.  Then when the Captain gives his ok the crew will give you a signal “Dive, Dive, Dive”.  Do NOT enter the water before the crew has given you the OK, and said “Dive, Dive, Dive”.  The divers will quickly enter the water one after the other as the boat is moving.  Typically up to 8 divers may enter in 15 to 20 seconds.  You will then meet you dive guide on the surface and all begin your descent together.  You are usually on the surface no more than 30 seconds before beginning your descent.

And what a wonderful descent.  The islet will be on one side and you will see a gradual slope towards the bottom beneath you.  The

Scuba Diving Molokai (Steven W Smeltzer)

Fish Rain, Molokai Hawaii

depth is about 100 to 110 feet in the channel but only about 50 to 60 where you will be dropped off.  The visibility is usually very good allowing you to see 100 to 150+ feet in the distance.  There are fish everywhere.

The dive itself is basically a half-circle around Mokuhooniiki Rock and the boat will pick you up on the other side.  Dive time is usually about 50 minutes give or take depending on depth of the dive and your air consumption.  If you dive Nitrox, this is a great spot to use it as you can get a little more time at depth when looking for the Hammerheads.  I usually hang out to the left of the group as I don’t want to have a lot of other divers close to me when I am trying to get a shot.

The Hammerheads sharks are a bit skittish.  If you or someone in your group swims rapidly towards them, they will simply move away.  The key is to go slow and easy and be patient.  As you start your descent from the boat you will follow the slope down to around 50 feet and then do one of two things.  Either start swimming out into the blue and looking for the sharks, which we do many times on the first dive, or you will begin to swim around the islet.

There can be a bit of current here but usually it is not too bad.  Or if there is a ripping current it is usually going the direction of the dive once you pass the corner of the islet and it simply becomes a drift dive.  When Scuba Diving Molokai, you can see anything from dolphin, to Tiger Sharks (not often), to Greys, to Hammerheads, to a Monk seal.  You may also encounter a variety of rays and there have even been a few rare Humpback Whale sightings while on the dive (December to April).  The abundance of various fishes and eels will blow you away.  There are also many endemic species on this site so be attentive and take your time.

Scuba Diving Molokai (Steven W Smeltzer)

Molokai Pickup

When you surface you will stay with your dive group until the boat comes to get you.  You will need a safety sausage to go on this dive and at least one of you will inflate the sausage at the end of the dive to signal the boat.  If it is rough it is very important to stay as close together as possible while you are waiting to be picked up.  Their could be one or max two other groups in the water, so you may have to wait several minutes to be picked up.  Again be patient.

The boat will come very close to you and throw a line out to the divers.  You have to swim to the line and grab a hold and then begin to slowly move up the line towards the boat.  You will take off your fins while you are holding on the line and have those in one hand to give to one of the crew as they help you aboard.  If you have a camera as I do, then you will give them your camera first to the crew and then take off your fins. Then you will proceed towards the boat and use a ladder to board.  This can be quite intimidating if you have never done something like this, but the crew is exceptionally good at what they do.  Listen to them and do as they say and you will be fine.  Believe me this dive will be worth it.

Scuba Diving Molokai (Steven W Smeltzer)

Maui Flame

After you finish your first dive and complete your surface interval, you will basically repeat the same dive on your second dive.  But there is enough on this dive site to interest you no matter how many times you dive it.

After scuba diving Molokai you get to relax on the boat ride back to Lahaina and enjoy the other adventures that Maui has to offer.

Long may the Fish Rain…..the pool is open

 

 

Scuba Diving Lighthouse

Scuba Diving Lighthouse

Scuba Diving Lighthouse is always a treat.  It is located off the island of Lanai which provides some of the better dive sites in Maui County.  Lighthouse is a great dive site that is not visited often due to the distance from Maui.  I dive this site with Lahaina Divers, my favorite dive shop on Maui, usually on a drift dive charter that runs each Thursday.  Check out Lahaina Divers, dive schedule for more information.

It is about an hour around to this site from Lahaina Harbor and it is usually a nice boat ride, but the channel between Maui and Lanai can be rough so if you are prone to sea sickness, make sure to take Bonine, ginger, use the patch, etc., before you get on the boat.

Scuba Diving Lighthouse

Scuba Diving Lighthouse

Lighthouse Rating: 3.11 out of 5

This scuba diving site gets its name from a structure on shore that resembles a small lighthouse.  The site has a number of large boulders strewn around the bottom and has a wide variety of marine life.  This scuba diving site can get blown out by wind and current and be very cloudy.  However, the boat captain and dive master will check out the conditions prior to getting in the water.  The conditions today were great.  The sea was very flat, the current was quite mild and the visibility was 100+ feet.

Scuba Diving Lighthouse: What You Will See

You can typically see smaller White-tip Reef Sharks, a wide variety of butterfly fishes, Triggerfishes and much more.  Make sure you check in the cracks and crevices where you can find octopus, a wide variety of eels, crabs, shrimps and other small marine life.  The hard corals here are also in good shape as they get a lot of nutrient and not many divers on the site.

Scuba Diving Lighthouse is a treat if you are going to be on the Maui for a few days.  I usually dive on Lanai two or three times during each trip and Lighthouse is often the second dive on Lahiana Divers’ Lanai drift dive.

Scuba Diving Lighthouse

Whitemouth Moray Eel

Check out my website for more underwater photographs on Scuba Diving Lanai and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

The pool is open…

Ahhh… Hawaii.  Back on the island of Maui and looking forward to some great diving.

Scuba Diving Lanai

Light From Above

The day began with a short ride over to the island of Lanai for our first dive at First Cathedrals.

I am diving with Lahaina Divers, my favorite dive operator on the island.  I have been diving with them for almost 10 years and they are a great choice for scuba diving Lanai.

First Cathedrals is a lava tube that rises to the surface of the ocean.  As the name implies there is a large underwater dome inside the lava tube with a number of openings where light shines down into the “cathedral area”.

This is one of the most popular sites for scuba diving Lanai and even though I have been on the site dozens of times, I still thoroughly enjoy the dive.

The entrance into the lava tube looks small and dark, but the interior is quite large.  The “cathedral” measures approximately 60 feet in length and the height varies from 10 feet to 40 feet.

Scuba Diving Lanai: Inside the Lava Tube

Scuba Diving Lanai First Cathedrals

Scuba Diving Lanai

If you have ever been to a church or cathedral with stained glass windows, you probably noticed the light shining through the glass as you entered the chapel or sanctuary. This dive site gets its name from a similar effect caused by the light shining in through the holes in the lava tube, e.g, the stain glass windows.

Another interesting feature of this dive site is the exit from the lava tube. It is fondly know as the “shotgun”, because when you exit, the surge may “shoot” you out of the cathedral as you surf the pressure wave. If the wave action is strong, it reminds me of what it must feel like to be “flushed”.  But don’t worry; the exit is wide and I go through it with my camera with no problems.

First Cathedrals Into the Light

Into the Light

If you are concerned about exiting this way, just let your dive master know and you can exit via the way you came in and just circle around the pinnacle to meet up with your group.  This site also has several other interesting lava formations off the main lava tube and a variety of marine life.

First Cathedrals has been the site for numerous underwater weddings and proposals and it is a great place for underwater photography.  To get the best photographs, it is important that everyone going into the “cathedral” is careful not to stir up the bottom or you will get a lot of backscatter in your photos.

In order to get the best lighting effects, I check the forecast to see when it is going to be sunny and then compare that to the Lahaina Divers’ schedule.  You can get the best photos when it is sunny and you can see rays of light coming through the holes in the lava tube and shining down inside.

Inside First Cathedrals

Scuba Diving Lanai First Cathedrals

You can frequently see turtles, dolphin, eagle rays, sharks and wide variety of fish, eels and coral on this dive site.  Please check out some of my other photos of First Cathedrals and underwater photography of Hawaii on my website.

The pool is open….

The San Gabriel Fine Arts Association is hosting an exhibit titled Marine / Aquatic Exhibition from April 14 to May 23.  The exhibit includes artwork that reflects a myriad of images and themes in the Marine/Aquatic environment including, Oceanic Scenery, Sea Animals, People at Sea, Marine Vessels and the Marine ecosystem.

I will have several aluminum prints on display including:

Hammerhead-Shark-Molokai

Star of India

Star-of-India-Rigging-373x563

Star of India

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Predator – Hammerhead shark, Molokai Hawaii

Hammerhead-Shark-Molokai

Predator – Hammerhead Shark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carthaginian II

Vintage Carthaginian II

Carthaginian II

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

USS Kittiwake

USS Kittiwake at rest Grand Cayman

USS Kittiwake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manta Ray Trio

Manta-Ray-Trio Kona Hawaii

Manta Ray Trio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The San Gabriel Fine Arts Association  (SGFAA) is a non-profit organization, founded in 1965 for the purpose of promoting traditional fine art in the community and to provide a venue for member artists to show their work. The association maintains a large group of over 200 members and represents all of Southern California and several states.

The SSGFAA supports awareness and education in the arts from aspiring artists to professionals by providing a venue and platform for members to display their works, providing art classes and art demonstrations, and encouraging growth and exploration in various forms of art to our community.

In addition to my work their will be a number of other artists displaying a variety of photographs, paintings and other work.  I would encourage everyone to go out and support the San Gabriel Fine Arts Association and their ongoing efforts at education and awareness of the arts in southern California.

The venue is at 320 Mission Deive, San Gabriel, CA the next door to the San Gabriel Playhouse and near the historic San Gabriel Mission and provides great ambience for the exhibit.

Come support the local arts community and enjoy historic San Gabriel.

Mahalo

Green Sea Turtle Silhouette

“Where are the ancient mariners from earlier days
Who roamed the oceans’ ever changing maze;
Where have they gone?” cry voices from the deep
And caverns of darkness answer: “They sleep!”
What greetings come from the voiceless dead?
Did they always live in constant dread?
What salutation, welcome, or reply,
What pleasure from the shells that lifelessly lie?
They are no longer here; they all are gone
Into the land of shadows

by Steven W Smeltzer

Sea Turtles, what lies ahead for these intriguing animals?

Hawksbill Turtle PortraitOnce numbering in the hundreds of thousands as little as a hundred years ago, the Green Sea Turtle, the Hawksbill, the Leatherback, Kemp’s Ridely and the Olive Ridley are all listed as endangered species.  While the Loggerhead Turtle is the only sea turtle not currently on the endangered species list, conservation efforts-including placing these turtles on the endangered species list and the actions of many countries and individuals has helped select population groups.  However, much work is yet to be done.

I remember my first encounter with Sea Turtles (almost 30 years ago) as if it were yesterday. I had just returned from a business trip to Australia and had stopped by the big island of Hawaii for a little relaxation before heading back to the states. I had wanted to start scuba diving for several years and the resort I was staying at had a dive shop on site that offered an “introductory dive” experience. After some brief drills in the pool, I was off to the boat and my first scuba diving adventure.

We were the second group to enter the water and just after my giant stride to enter the water, I looked to my left and there were 3 Green Sea Green Sea Turtle MauiTurtles, Chelonia mydas, just off the reef not more than 5 meters from the dive master and me. It was love at first sight; the turtles were very relaxed and the dive master did an excellent job of having us just hover and watch the turtles as they swam in and around our small group and snacked at the local reef “deli”.

The Sea Turtle population in Hawaii is one of the few population groups that have been increasing over the last 30 years due to the actions of both the local government and concerned citizens. Major population reductions around the world over the last three generations show a decline in the number of mature females between 48% to 67%-depending on the species-and startling reductions in the overall population sizes in a number of key nesting sites.

Green Sea Turtle Damaged BillSea Turtles are fighting for survival.  They are hunted for their shells, eggs, meat and skin.  Their habitats are under stress from human development, they fight accidental capture in fishing gear, and they face new diseases, worsened by changes in the environment.  Nesting sites are critically important to the survival of wild Sea Turtles and we must find ways to protect these sites in a responsible fashion or we may soon face a time where the only sea turtles to be found are in an aquarium.

 

Green Sea Turtle, Chelonia mydas:

Green - CERN Redlist

Eastern Pacific Ocean, Mexico – 96% to 98% reduction

Southeast Asia, Indonesia (Berau Islands) – 96% reductionGreen Sea Turtle North Wall

Southeast Asia, Malaysia (Sarawak) – 94% to 99% reduction

Southeast Asia, Peninsular Malaysia – 88% to 92% reduction

Western Atlantic Ocean, Venezuela (Aves Is.) – 98% reduction

Mediterranean Sea, Turkey – 93% reduction

Eastern Indian Ocean, Myanmar – 89% to 90% reduction

Northern Indian Ocean, PRD Yemen (Sharma) – 74% to 80% reduction

Eastern Indian Ocean, Indonesia (West Java) – 96% reduction

Hawksbill Sea Turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata:

Hawksbill CERN Redlist

The Hawksbill has decreased an estimated 85+% over the last 100 years from over 70,000 turtles to roughly 10,000 animals today.

Indian Ocean, Madagascar – 90% reductionHawksbill and Soft Coral

Indian Ocean, Egypt – 99% reduction

Indian Ocean, Maldives – 96% reduction

Pacific Ocean, Milman Island 46% reduction

Pacific Ocean, Indonesia 93% reduction

Atlantic Ocean, Bahamas 96% reduction

Atlantic Ocean, Nicaragua 97% reduction

Atlantic Ocean, Brazil 80% reduction

Atlantic Ocean, Panama 95% reduction

 

 Loggerhead, Caretta caretta

Loggerhead - CERN Redlist

 

 

 

 

Leatherback, Dermochelys coriacea

Leatherback - CERN Redlist

East Pacific Ocean, Mexico 98% reductionGreen Sea Turtle Ambient Light Mala Pier

East Pacific Ocean, Costa Rica 95% reduction

West Pacific Ocean, Malaysia 100% reduction

West Pacific Ocean, Indonesia 76% reduction

 

Green Sea Turtle Feeling Free

 

 

Because of the threats facing the Sea Turtle it is evident that these turtles face a measurable risk of extinction. The time for action is now to help preserve these wonderful creatures for future generations.  Conservation actions, such as those in islands of the Seychelles, Hawaii, Florida and other locations demonstrate that the turtle populations will increase with aggressive conservation activities, but without specific protective actions these turtles are in critical danger.

Take the pledge.  Educate yourself regarding the dangers facing Sea Turtles and commit yourself to tell at five other people. #takethepledge, #conservation, #seaturtles

Note: Endangered species information and population estimates are provided by CERN Redlist

More information on the dangers facing Sea Turtles can be found at:

World wildlife

Redlist

NOAA Fisheries

Sea Turtle Conservancy

Also visit my gallery for more Sea Turtle photographs