MANGILAO, Guam-Nov. 22, 2017 – Although the sea turtle has been around for more than 100 million years, their survival remains under threat. It is estimated that one in every 100 sea turtle hatchlings will make it to sexual maturity. For the green sea turtle, and the hawksbill sea turtle we commonly see on Guam, that is around 20 to 30 years old.
A local organization, Haggan Watch, is on a mission to change this.
This non-profit organization is a sea turtle monitoring volunteer organization operated by the Government of Guam’s Department of Agriculture.
Hagan Watch is led by Cee Jay Cayanan, a biologist at the Department of Agriculture Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources, the low success rate of sea turtle hatchlings making it to sexual maturity is a result of natural predators, but also human activity, Cayanan explains.
According to Cayanan, predators such as as monitor lizards, pigs, deer and birds will disturb the sea turtle’s nests, or prey on the hatchlings as they make their way to the water.
Human factors such as poaching, artificial lights that can direct sea turtles away from the water, and trash or man-made structures can block access of hatchlings.
According to its mission statement, Hagan Watch… “to monitor, protect, and minimize impacts to sea turtles and to enhance successful nesting events, to determine the population size of Guam’s nesting turtles, to determine where Guam’s nesting turtles reside, and to create awareness and to educate the public about sea turtles.”
Cayanan explains that Haggan Watch has been around for several years.
“It started out in order to just basically get the community involved and also to help with learning and seeing if there’s any sea turtle activity on different beaches on Guam,” Cayanan said. “Because we have so many different beaches and it’s hard for the staff at Department of Agriculture to check these beaches regularly.”
Cayanan adds that volunteers play an important role in monitoring the beaches, and collecting data that are crucial to the studying and protecting Guam’s sea turtles.
Biologist Stacy Gilmore volunteered for a handful of Haggan Watch events where she and members of her family monitored and collected data.
“The first time I saw an actual nest it was kind of amazing, they’re huge,” Gilmore said. “Being able to have my son with me and experiencing this, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but to be able to have him along with me, that was pretty great.”
Marie Auyong, a UOG Sea Grant extension educator, oversees the internships for the programs, one of which is the UOG Sea Grant turtle education outreach internship. In this program, interns can take part in occupational shadowing, and educational presentations.
Auyong stated that interns in the outreach program take the training that Cayanan gives to Haggan Watch volunteers.
Auyong referred to this type of training as citizen science, which involves taking people who do not necessarily have to be students or scientist and teaching them to do certain aspects of science.
If you would like to know more about Haggan Watch or wish to become a volunteer, you can contact CJ Cayanan by phone at her office: 735-3995, or at DAWR phone number at: 735-0294, or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you wish to find out more information on the UOG Sea Grant internship, you can contact Marie Auyoung at: 685-4355, by email at: email@example.com or at the UOG Sea Grant Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/UOGSeaGrant/