If you ever told Sanpedranos, 25 years ago, that it was illegal to catch sea turtles, or that the season was closed, you would have upset them so badly that they probably would have beaten you. That was because sea turtles were very important in their lives, and I will tell you why first. Then I will tell you of the different ways to catch them next week.
A LIVING DREDGE: If you caught a sea turtle alive, you could use it like a dredge. You bore a small hole through the very end of its shell and fasten the turtle with a rope. Then you tie the animal to a post in the sea in the area that you want dredged. The reptile will swim in circles and do two things. With its fins it will remove the sea grass from the floor of the sea. I will also eat some of this sea grass. After a few days the area that had seaweed will be a nice sandy area where you can tie your dory or where children can swim. If you wanted a larger white sandy area you simply gave the animal some more rope, and the turtle would be all too happy because it would be more food.
MEAT FOR THE TABLE: When you got enough of your dredge, you proceeded to slaughter the animal for its meat. Turtle meat sold for twenty cents a pound. (in times of abundance for 10 cents) That was one pound of clean meat. Then the seller asked you if you wanted the other edible parts such as the heart, liver, pancreas, lungs, and small intestine called the tripe, plus my favorite, pieces of the fins. Whenever mom fixed a huge pot of turtle stew or gravy, most people used to ask for the fins, which is like cow foot soup for those cow foot lovers.
If you were lucky to catch a female turtle that had already mated, it would have eggs inside. They looked like bunches of grapes, except that they were yellow- all egg yolk and no white. But the flavor was exquisite and that sold for 30 cents a pound. All this time that I am talking about sea turtles, I am actually referring to the loggerhead turtle. The hawks billed turtle also had scales on its shell which could be shaped and polished to provide lovely pendants, bracelets, earrings, wrist watch bands and even belt buckles. Ask Dimas Guerrero at D & G’s Gift Shop.
Now that you have learned of the beauty and importance of sea turtles, don’t you wish you could go to a local restaurant and order for a plate of rice and beans with turtle gravy and potato salad? But ironically, because they are so important, we also need to protect them to conserve them so we can have them 25 years in the future. Hey, here’s an idea! Raise loggerheads in a farm pretty much like you grow shrimps and fish. Anybody interested? It is cheap to feed them-sea grass. I know Kathy Marin must be thinking I’m running nuts.
– by Angel Nuñez, Columnist