Posts tagged ‘Caribbean beaches destinations & Snorkeling Culebra Beach Puerto Rico’

November 1, 2015

What Happens When Oil Spills Meet Massive Islands of Seaweed?

Floating rafts of sargassum, a large brown seaweed, can stretch for miles across the ocean.

Floating bits of brown seaweed at ocean surface
                                                            (Credit: Sean Nash/Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license)

The young loggerhead sea turtle, its ridged shell only a few inches across, is perched calmly among the floating islands of large brown seaweed, known as sargassum. Casually, it nibbles on the leaf-like blades of the seaweed, startling a nearby crab. Open ocean stretches for miles around these large free-floating seaweed mats where myriad creatures make their home.

Suddenly, a shadow passes overhead. A hungry seabird?

Taking no chances, the small sea turtle dips beneath the ocean surface. It dives through the yellow-brown sargassum with its tangle of branches and bladders filled with air, keeping everything afloat.

Home Sweet Sargassum

This little turtle isn’t alone in seeking safety and food in these buoyant mazes of seaweed. Perhaps nowhere is this more obvious than a dynamic stretch of the Atlantic Ocean off the East Coast of North America named for this seaweed: the Sargasso Sea. Sargassum is also an important part of the Gulf of Mexico, which contains the second most productive sargassum ecosystem in the world.

Some shrimp, crabs, and fish are specially suited to life in sargassum. Certain species of eel, fish, and shark spawn there. Each year, humpback whales, tuna, and seabirds migrate across these fruitful waters, taking advantage of the gathering of life that occurs where ocean currents converge.

Cutaway graphic of ocean with healthy sargassum seaweed habitat supporting marine life.

The Wide and Oily Sargasso Sea

However, an abundance of marine life isn’t the only other thing that can accumulate with these large patches of sargassum. Spilled oil, carried by currents, can also end up swirling among the seaweed.

If an oil spill made its way somewhere like the Sargasso Sea, a young sea turtle would encounter a much different scene. As the ocean currents brought the spill into contact with sargassum, oil would coat those same snarled branches and bladders of the seaweed. The turtles and other marine life living within and near the oiled sargassum would come into contact with the oil too, as they dove, swam, and rested among the floating mats.

That oil can be inhaled as vapors, be swallowed or consumed with food, and foul feathers, skin, scales, shell, and fur, which in turn smothers, suffocates, or strips the animal of its ability to stay insulated. The effects can be toxic and deadly.

Cutaway graphic of ocean with potential impacts of oil on sargassum seaweed habitat and marine life.

While sea turtles, for example, as cold-blooded reptiles, may enjoy the relatively warmer waters of sargassum islands, a hot sun beating down on an oiled ocean surface can raise water temperatures to extreme levels. What starts as soothing can soon become stressful.

Depending on how much oil arrived, the sargassum would grow less, or not at all, or even die. These floating seaweed oases begin shrinking. Where will young sea turtles take cover as they cross the unforgiving open ocean?

As life in the sargassum starts to perish, it may drop to the ocean bottom, potentially bringing oil and the toxic effects with it. Microbes in the water may munch on the oil and decompose the dead marine life, but this can lead to ocean oxygen dropping to critical levels and causing further harm in the area.

From Pollution to Protection

Young sea turtles swims through floating seaweed mats.

NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service havedesignated sargassum as a critical habitat for threatened loggerhead sea turtles.

Sargassum has also been designated as Essential Fish Habitat by Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and National Marine Fisheries Service since it also provides nursery habitat for many important fishery species (e.g., dolphinfish, triggerfishes, tripletail, billfishes, tunas, and amberjacks) and for ecologically important forage fish species (e.g., butterfishes and flyingfishes).

Sargassum and its inhabitants are particularly vulnerable to threats such as oil spills and marine debris due to the fact that ocean currents naturally tend to concentrate all of these things together in the same places. In turn, this concentrating effect can lead to marine life being exposed to oil and other pollutants for more extended periods of time and perhaps greater impacts.

However, protecting sargassum habitat isn’t impossible and it isn’t out of reach for most people. Some of the same things you might do to lower your impact on the planet—using less plastic, reducing your demand for oil, properly disposing of trash, discussing these issues with elected officials—can lead to fewer oil spills and less trash turning these magnificent islands of sargassum into floating islands of pollution.

And maybe protect a baby sea turtle or two along the way.

Culebra Snorkeling & Dive Center Kayaks Paddle Boards Boggie Boards and Beach Rentel Center

Floating rafts of sargassum, a large brown seaweed, can stretch for miles across the ocean.

Floating bits of brown seaweed at ocean surface
                                                            (Credit: Sean Nash/Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license)

The young loggerhead sea turtle, its ridged shell only a few inches across, is perched calmly among the floating islands of large brown seaweed, known as sargassum. Casually, it nibbles on the leaf-like blades of the seaweed, startling a nearby crab. Open ocean stretches for miles around these large free-floating seaweed mats where myriad creatures make their home.

Suddenly, a shadow passes overhead. A hungry seabird?

Taking no chances, the small sea turtle dips beneath the ocean surface. It dives through the yellow-brown sargassum with its tangle of branches and bladders filled with air, keeping…

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June 25, 2013

Culebra Snorkeling Update

A Guide for Snorkeling Culebra, Puerto Rico’s Beaches and Reefs  the Spanish Virgin Islands a Gateway to the Caribbean’s Best

snorkeler head

If you are new to the snorkeling / scuba diving experience or need advice on the Culebra Snorkeling scene this is the place,  here you will afforded the  years of experience with those who have logged thousands of hours breathing on top and underwater.  Culebra offers a comfortable and relaxed learning environment.  For those of you that are already comfortable in the water, Culebra provides an opportunity for a continuing education about the Caribbean waters like no other.  Our goal is to enable  you to become comfortable snorkeling or diving any time of day or distance from the shoreline that all your friends are always talking about (did you know there are over 20 Cayos (keys) around Culebra, Puerto Rico alone).

No one can offer guarantees, but with the miles upon miles of gorgeous Caribbean reefs Culebra snorkelers are able to interact with the turtles more often than not, usually just by getting in the water and snorkeling over the reef system sharing it with them. When you glide over a sea-grass bed, it’s like soaring over a miniature forest with all sorts of curious animals hiding amid the blades. A short informal classroom session will give you an explanation of a marine mural depicting various underwater environments enabling you to find stingrays foraging in the sand, turtles feeding in the grass, and during different times of the year an explosion of baitfish attracts schools of yellowtail snappers, blue tangs, French grunts, goatfish and others. Many of Culebra lagoon’s lead to widespread continuous reef systems that provide endless shallow wanderings and are surrounded by sandy beaches fitted for relaxation. Stop by Culebra Snorkeling & Dive Center for gear and suggestions on the best locations based on current conditions to ensure an experience of a lifetime.

June 21, 2013

NOAA predicts active 2013 Atlantic hurricane season

Era of high activity for Atlantic hurricanes continues

In its 2013 Atlantic hurricane season outlook issued today, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting an active or extremely active season this year.

For the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, NOAA’s Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook says there is a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 7 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

These ranges are well above the seasonal average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.

“With the devastation of Sandy fresh in our minds, and another active season predicted, everyone at NOAA is committed to providing life-saving forecasts in the face of these storms and ensuring that Americans are prepared and ready ahead of time.” said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., NOAA acting administrator. “As we saw first-hand with Sandy, it’s important to remember that tropical storm and hurricane impacts are not limited to the coastline. Strong winds, torrential rain, flooding, and tornadoes often threaten inland areas far from where the storm first makes landfall.”

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June 21, 2013

June’s 2013 Culebra’s Tide

June’s 2013 Culebra’s Tide

CULEBRA 9752235 Tidal Data July 2013

June 18, 2013

Culebra’s Coral Reef System

Lagoons………………………………………………… Lagoons………………………………………………….. Laguna…………………………………………………..

IMG_0915 w dude & chicks merged visible CROPPED

Snorkeling is a breathtaking means of exploring all that Mother Nature has to offer, in Culebra,  from her underwater wonderland.  The most important thing is to just relax. There is no need to hurry up.  Learning to snorkel is about moving in the water creating  techniques to move without feeling breathless, fatigue or cramps which is the key to maximizing the enjoyment of your Culebra coral snorkeling adventure.  Snorkeling is an excellent way to view tropical fish in shallow water or explore a coral reef. All you need is a mask, a snorkel or breathing tube, and fins.  Both beginners and more experienced swimmers can learn to snorkel, as it doesn’t require much swimming.  Relax, float face-down on your stomach and gaze down into an enchanting underwater realm.

Snorkeling in Culebra is one of the easiest methods to view the Caribbean’s  underwater world. It opens the door to Culebra that most have never seen before and is one of the most relaxing sports related to water. You do not need extraordinary strength, nor do you need to hold your breath, but you will need some basic swimming techniques. Enjoying snorkeling in Culebra is much like relaxing in the water while looking below and enjoying the door to the new world that you have opened. Just about anybody can snorkel and with a little help, you will become better and better.

No Mask Swimmer IMG_0943

June 17, 2013

Snorkeling in Culebra

Local Guide for Snorkeling Culebra, Puerto Rico’s Beaches and Reefs

Culebra Snorkeler w mask on

A Guide for Snorkeling Culebra, Puerto Rico’s Beaches and Reefs  the Spanish Virgin Islands a Gateway to the Caribbean’s Best

If you are new to the snorkeling / scuba diving experience or need advice on the Culebra Snorkeling scene this is the place.   Culebra offers a comfortable and relaxed learning environment.  For those of you that are already comfortable in the water,  Culebra offers a good location for continuing education about the Caribbean waters like no other.  So you can become comfortable snorkeling or diving any time of day or distance from the shoreline that all your friends are always talking about (did you know there are over 20 Cayos (keys) around Culebra, Puerto Rico alone).

June 16, 2013

Kayaking in Culebra

I like kayaking in Culebra.