Gus' enthusiasm and interest in all things marine based is astounding, and since his writing skills rival those of many we have decided to bring him on board to express his points of view on various issues. I shall; leave you to read on in Gus' own words.....
note: photo of the Tessoro construction at the mouth of Estero Morúa.
Hi , my name is Gus and I’m a 13-year old volunteer at CEDO. I’m here to tell you about my experience on CEDO’s Sunset Estero tour. It was a very fun, hands-on, and specialized encounter with nature, and I would recommend it to anyone, young or old.
The tour was led by Kat, who is a dedicated intern at CEDO. She is extremely knowledgeable, and is a very passionate person. We were very lucky to have her as our guide.
Along with my mother and I, two adults came, Richard and Doreen. They own a house in Las Conchas, and are very environmentally conscious. They, too, thoroughly enjoyed the tour.
First, we piled into the CEDO van for the bumpy ride to Estero Morua with our survival gear (sun block and water.) In a few minutes, we arrived, and took seats under the palapas owned by the estuary’s oyster farmers. There, as the sun began to sink, Kat gave us an educational talk about the features of the estero. She told us how it is a safe haven and breeding grounds for one of Puerto Penasco’s essential revenues: shrimp. She also pointed out the many different species of bird living in Morua, and how it is a crucial resting place for many migrating flocks.
Sadly, Kat told us, the beautiful Estero Morua is under threat from developers who want to turn it into a mass tourist attraction and have thousands of people disturbing its fragile ecosystem. Not only would this be bad for Puerto Penasco’s shrimp population (which the town relies on for much of its income,) but also to the millions of other species that call the estero home. While the Mexican government has put useless protections on Estero Morua, such as stating that “No building or establishment shall harm the flamingoes in Estero Morua” while there are no flamingoes to be seen there, builders have already begun construction on “Tessoro,” which means treasure in Spanish, in the estuary. Tessoro is a huge resort, and perhaps to the people in charge of the project it does seem like a treasure that will bring them lots of money, but to the people of CEDO and all of the other people who love the natural world, it is a parasite living off the estuary’s beauty. If more resorts are built, there will be extreme damage done to the esteros that will not be able to be undone. Once gone, the estuaries are lost forever.
Once we finished our talk, we proceeded down to the water’s edge. While Richard and Doreen chose not to go into the water because they wanted to avoid getting nipped by swimming crabs (or Jaibas,) my mom, Kat, and I went plunging into the warm water to check out the boxes of oysters that were floating nearby. Kat explained to us how the oysters get their nourishment from the rich estuary water, and how Morua has a very large difference from low tide to high tide. As we were standing there, admiring the oyster farmers’ work, my mom suddenly gave a scream of fright. Kat and I started and looked around at her. She exclaimed “Something just pinched my foot!” Uh-oh. I knew it must have been the mischievous Jaibas! No sooner had I realized this than I, too felt something grab my big toe. “Ayiii!” I exclaimed. Everybody was laughing, albeit a bit nervously, and to avoid further Jaiba encounters, we headed back to the shore.
Kat then took us for a walk over to where the mud is softer and more nutrient-rich. There, she said, there would be great big fiddler crabs living in holes along the sand. Sure enough, we rounded some rocks and found hundreds, even thousands of giant fiddler crabs! Kat explained that the male crabs were attempting to attract mates by waving their big right claws at them. She said that if we could catch one, we would be able to get a better look at its intriguing structure. I saw a particularly big crab scurrying for cover as we approached. I chased him into a small water outlet running into the main estuary water. The little guy was incredibly fast for his size, and I barely managed to block his exit as Kat came up and grabbed him from behind. As she had said, the crab was very interesting, and we learned that its muscular structure was quite unique.
Next, we dropped our stuff off and walked for a little bit longer until we came to some good, soft, wet sand. Kat taught us how to do the shrimp dance, which consisted of simultaneously wiggling our toes and stomping our feet. In no time, everybody was knee deep in mud and laughing. Amazingly, this dance really did seem to attract the shrimp, for they began appearing all around us in the big holes we created. I decided to build a little pen for them, although they kept escaping by digging into the mud. We chose to move on, and I emptied the shrimp from my enclosure back into the holes from which they came. Getting out of the holes was quite difficult, but we managed it. It was such fun!
Before we walked back to the palapas, Kat showed us these salty plants that you can eat. She gave some to all of us and we tried it. Surprisingly, the edible plants are extremely tasty. I couldn’t stop eating them! We picked some to use to make salads for later, and then retrieved our stuff.
On the way back, we ran into a couple of oyster farmers making their final checks of the day on their oyster beds. Kat asked them whether they would show us how they did their work. They accepted with enthusiasm, and went on to describe to us in Spanish (with Kat as their translator) how they take care of their oysters. It was fascinating, and when my mom and I both got another good nip from a curious Jaiba, the farmers laughed and exclaimed “El Jaiba!”
We said goodbye to the oyster farmers and thanked them for letting us explore their farms. As we walked back up to the car, I gazed at the beautiful setting sun and reflected how extremely unique this place was. I reflected on the experience that I had just had, and as I took one last look out at the vast Estero Morua, a great, swelling feeling of happiness and awe swept over me. I got into the car, and put my arm around my mom.
All in one small trip, I had experienced a colossal adventure. I had learned amazing things, gained an environmental respect for the estuary, and made friends with two former strangers. My mom and I also found ourselves nearer together from this bonding experience. It’s not every day that you get the opportunity to do something as magical as what I was able to do, but luckily, CEDO is dedicated to bringing people closer to nature and all of its creatures through tours like this one. From the estuary adventure that I have been fortunate enough to experience, I have gained new determination to protect the beauty of Puerto Penasco and its unique environment. I believe that ordinary people, such as you and me, are the key to conserving the Sea of Cortez’s irreplaceable natural wonder. Together, we can save the Sea. Thank you Kat, for your kindness and enthusiasm, and thank you CEDO, for your wonderful contribution to conservation.