Rare Turtle Sighting in La Union's Main Beach Gives a Glimmer of Hope

It's a reminder to keep our shores clean.

(SPOT.ph) The recent six-month closure of Boracay was a wake-up call for most people, especially for those in communities living by the beach and government units that are responsible for tourist destinations. It was an ultimatum that shouldn't have happened had everyone cleaned up after themselves in the first place.

In San Juan, La Union, locals and business owners know better. They would even rally against illegal construction by the shore until authorities take appropriate action. So much so that even after tourists partied and trashed the beach over the weekend, a sea turtle was sighted laying its eggs along the spic-and-span Urbiztondo Beach for the first time in a long while. It's nesting season for these marine creatures, and the sand dunes in San Juan has always been the pawikan's safe space.

The La Union Surfing Break, which ran from October 26 to 28, was one of the surf town's annual events where they feature live music, a food and local crafts bazaar, and surf sessions. But more than a beach party, it also advocates environmental awareness for both residents and guests in San Juan. Trash bins and signages were also around to remind party-goers to be responsible tourists. Business owners from Le Point, Wavecheck, and Sebay made it a point that garbage doesn’t pile up along the beach during the three-day event. Volunteers—comprised of surfers and residents—cleaned up the trashed-up coast the following morning. It wasn't that easy, as seen in photos from the La Union Surfing Break now circulating online; but locals worked together so that by Sunday afternoon, everything was cleaned up—as if a party didn't happen.

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But it wasn't all for show. Coastal cleanups are a regular occurrence in the area, thanks to the efforts of the La Union Surf Club. Clean Beach, a beachfront café, also encourages an eco-friendly and sustainable way of life by reducing consumption of single-use plastic in its shop and instilling among customers the habit of cleaning up after themselves.

"Efforts like ours focus on the individual. We don't really need to wait for a beach cleanup to be organized before we clean. We just do, whenever we want, or in our own time. We also encourage our customers to do this and they get a free iced tea when they do," Camille Pilar, co-owner of Clean Beach, tells SPOT.ph.

With the beach all cleaned up, it was a welcome surprise that an Oliver Ridley sea turtle found a perfect spot for nesting in front of Kahuna Beach Resort right before dusk on October 28. It's the first time this has happened along the often-crowded main beach, which is a couple of kilometers away from their usual nesting place in Barangay Panicsican, in years.

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To make sure that the natural spectacle won’t be disturbed, local authorities were on the scene to help manage the crowd and create a safe perimeter around the nesting turtle. Coastal Underwater Resource Management Actions, an environmental group in La Union that advocates sea turtle conservation, was quick to act in making sure that the eggs—all 101 of them—were safe from poaching and other disturbance by transferring the lot carefully to the hatchery. Little sea turtles are expected to come out of their shell and crawl into the water in about 60 days.

Sea turtles are known to come back to the place where they first laid their eggs. Even the little ones, when all grown up, follow the footsteps of their mother—quite literally—and lay their own eggs in the same area. “This turtle and her ancestors have long known San Juan, La Union as their home,” explained Coastal Underwater Resource Management Actions (CURMA) in a Facebook post. With this in mind, the group reminded everyone to “keep the beaches clean, quiet, and safe for all.” So the next time you're in this surf town to party, just think about the mother pawikan in search of a home.

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For more information, follow CURMA on Facebook.

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