It’s Pawikan Season in the North
A travel journal that will give you a pleasant view of people, places, food, culture, history and events from a refreshing perspective.
IT’S Pawikan season! Pawikan or sea turtles are turtles with flippers and are inhabitants of the seas. There are seven species of Pawikans in the world, five of which can be found in the Philippines namely Green Sea, Hawksbill, Olive Ridley, Loggerhead and Leatherback turtle. The other two species are the Flatback turtle and Kemp’s Ridley turtle. They are considered endangered or threatened.
In the North, Pawikan season has just begun. This usually lasts until February next year. The first sea turtle sighting was reported last October 2, 2017 off the shore of Taboc, La Union. CURMA or Coastal Underwater Resource Management Actions, a marine turtle conservation program that protects an endangered keystone species from poachers and other predators is in the forefront of pawikan conservation and protection efforts. It is a public-private partnership of the Municipality of San Juan, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Tourism (DOT), HOLCIM, and the Science of Identity Foundation. Volunteer activities are beach patrol, hatchery management, coastal clean-ups, information campaign and pawikan release. Last October 7, 2017, CURMA volunteers cleared loads of sand from the hatchery to prepare for the annual Pawikan (sea turtle) nesting season. A Basic Sea Turtle Conservation Workshop was held last October 21, 2017. A beach patrol was organized the next day at around 4 -7 A.M.
My first encounter with a pawikan was in 2011 when I joined the local media and BFAR chief Westley Rosario in releasing a 10-year-old pawikan called “Joy” (named as such to counter the grief and negativity caused by the recent fishkill during that time) to the sea a few kilometers off the Dagupan City coast. The endangered marine animal was turned over to the BFAR by a concerned citizen from Calasiao, Pangasinan. It was found being sold in a public market in Tayug, Pangasinan.
Sea turtles play an important role in the marine ecosystem. They are one of the few species that eat sea grass. Sea grasses are needed to be constantly cut so that it could grow across the sea bed. Sea grass beds provide breeding and developmental grounds for many sea animals. Sea turtles’ wastes also serve as fertilizer for sea grass beds. Pawikans also help in the propagation of corals by cleaning and replanting them.
There are a lot of threats to the sea turtles and other marine animals. The biggest threat of course is us humans and our bad habits. This includes beach development, pollution (especially plastics and oil spills) and poaching. Pawikans return to the same beach each time to nest and beach development which is very near the shore can disrupt their hatching and nesting cycle. Plastic and other pollutants kill many marine creatures and destroy the ecosystem. Poaching is also a major problem as the eggs and meat of the sea turtle is expensive in the black market.
What can we do this Pawikan season? We could join and organize a regular coastal cleanup. We could also volunteer for beach patrol. We should start practicing and campaigning for a “No Plastic” policy. I hope the cities and municipalities in the north adopt this policy. Can we go for a “No Plastic” Dagupan? Yes?!
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