Don't touch the turtles! [Archive] - ScubaBoard - Scuba Diving Forum - Diving Social Network

View Full Version : Don't touch the turtles!


Sponsored Link
nigeltlee
December 12th, 2008, 11:59 PM
Hi Everyone!

Every time I dive in a new location the dive group gets a very stern warning about not touching the turtles. Apart from the obvious (we shouldn't touch anything), I was wondering if there was other reasons, like they could catch a disease from humans or vice versa.

I'm happy to report that I dive in South East Asia and all of the dive operations enforce this rule rigorously. I've seen a DM cancel the days dives when he saw someone in his group try to ride one.... :shakehead:

Walter
December 13th, 2008, 09:23 AM
Apart from the obvious (we shouldn't touch anything), I was wondering if there was other reasons, like they could catch a disease from humans or vice versa.

I disagree with your assumption about not touching anything. Look at the most recent Nogi (http://www.auas-nogi.org/nogi_recipients.html) awards (http://www.touchthesea.com/). As for your question, about other reasons...a touch spreads no disease in either direction. A simple touch harms neither the turtle nor the diver. Riding a turtle is far different from touching one. Touching is prohibited because people don't know how to touch. Harassing turtles is illegal in many areas. There's nothing wrong (assuming local laws allow it) with touching a turtle if you do it in the correct manner. Swim along side a turtle. If it turns away, let it go. If it continues to swim along side, gradually get closer. When you are close enough, slowly reach out with one hand and gently stroke the shell with your finger tips only. You should always let the turtle approach you. Always let the turtle turn away without following. Never grab or try to ride a turtle.

bleeb
December 13th, 2008, 01:13 PM
I don't know about turtles specifically, but most (AFAIK) marine creatures rely on slime or biofilms to help keep infection out. Unlike above-water creatures, they're much more exposed as a result of constantly swimming in a soup of the stuff. Touching can disturb their native protection, putting them at increased risk.

That being said, I suspect touching a hard watertight surface like a turtle shell is relatively less risky to the turtle than touching soft surfaces like head, flippers, or other skin-covered areas. But possibly not completely zero risk for the turtle, since I vaguely remember articles about rescued turtles where chunks of their shell had become infected and were rotting away.

DMJulie
December 13th, 2008, 01:23 PM
In Hawaii we have the Green Sea turtle. If you get caught touching one of these guys, it's going to cost you some bucks. It's a $10k fine.

However the turtle can touch you.

Scared Silly
December 13th, 2008, 01:24 PM
In a few places the local residents get a bit annoyed if you do pay them some attention with a scratch or two. This is the exception rather than the rule. My guess is like what Walter said

Touching is prohibited because people don't know how to touch and at that point the touching is harassment.

wreckchick
December 13th, 2008, 03:16 PM
This is what I tell everyone about touching turtles:

I like turtles, I like seeing turtles, I want to show turtles to other people therefore I don't allow any diver to do anything to any turtle that might make said turtle want to avoid being seen by divers.

The example I give is that if you decide to dive down to the bottom of the pool and you have plenty of time there but someone, however briefly, puts a hand on your head, it's probably going to annoy you since you know you have to go up eventually and for a second you weren't sure if someone else was going to let you or not. That would piss me off and I'd try and avoid letting things with hands that can do that get near me the next time I want to hang out in the bottom of the pool.

Turtles are really fast underwater and can easily scoot away when they hear a group of divers coming because they've had unpleasant encounters in the past.

That's my speech and my philosophy on turtle contact.

Rachel

novicediver
December 13th, 2008, 09:51 PM
I just assume leave the marine life alone. I am sure one touch is not going to hurt the turtle, but one touch leads to grabbing which leads to picking up, etc. Why are we even having this discussion? Isn't it enough to watch and enjoy the sea life? Do you go into the woods to pet the squirrels or deer?

LeadTurn_SD
December 13th, 2008, 11:49 PM
I'm not a marine biologist. But I am a turtle lover :D

I dive at a location near my home in Hilo known for numerous turtle "cleaning stations" at a depth of 40-50 feet; it is not uncommon to see a dozen or more motionless turtles being "cleaned" at the same time in an area that is maybe 50' x 50'. These turtles are incredibly tame and will happily tolerate scuba divers (within reason) because of the no-harrassment, no-touch rules that have been observed here for many years. Looking is fine, if they swim up to you fine, but no touching, no chasing, etc.

What Walter describes is surely also just fine (because he knows how to touch without terrorizing the turtle), but I really prefer the absolute no-touch rule because of the potential for harm to the animal.... touching does not benefit the animal, and is only done to please ourselves.... so unless the turtle or other sea creature comes up and nuzzles up to you like a pet dog, no touching please, because we want the turtles there the next time we dive :D

Happy Diving!

novicediver
December 14th, 2008, 12:25 AM
Yeah, what he said! If people would stick to the take only pictures and leave only bubbles rule when it comes to all marine life and avoid any kind of touching instead of trying to justify in their own little brains why they think it is ok, then perhaps my daughter may actually get to enjoy the underwater world as well.

halemanō
December 14th, 2008, 02:17 AM
In Hawaii we have the Green Sea turtle. If you get caught touching one of these guys, it's going to cost you some bucks. It's a $10k fine.

However the turtle can touch you.

The majority of sea turtles in Hawaii are green sea turtles. We also have a few hawksbill turtles. Green sea turtles are considered endangered. Hawksbill's are critically endangered.

If you are convicted of harassment you could be fined up to $10 or $20 thousand dollars; I can't find a definite answer on the web. Harassment accusations are in the eye of the person turning you in. U-tube video of a diver riding a green sea turtle might be sufficient evidence to result in a conviction.

Touching a green sea turtle is not by definition harassment. U-tube video of a diver touching a green sea turtle would probably not be sufficient evidence to result in conviction, and even if convicted first offense fines would likely be less than the max, just like other fine systems.


If people would stick to the take only pictures and leave only bubbles rule when it comes to all marine life and avoid any kind of touching instead of trying to justify in their own little brains why they think it is ok, then perhaps my daughter may actually get to enjoy the underwater world as well.

There are turtle cleaning stations at many popular dive sites where nearly 100 year old turtles have been watched/admired/photographed/bumped into by divers daily for decades. I have had the distinct feeling from turtles I took pictures of daily for years that me helping the algae eating fish clean the shell would be less harassing than repeated strobe flashes in the face.


http://www.scubaboard.com/gallery/data/500/242682946_.jpg
those are fish lip prints, not fingerprints

Cleaning stations are not just for turtles, or even marine animals. Many of our scarlet cleaner shrimp seem to be surviving this wild animal feeding harassment.


http://www.scubaboard.com/gallery/data/500/UnderwaterGrooming.jpg

John_B
December 14th, 2008, 01:40 PM
When I did the DiveQuest dive at Epcot, they said even the captive turtle in their aquarium was protected and the fine for touching it could be up to ten grand (note that the turtle is allowed to bump into you if it wants to, gratis).

RikRaeder
December 14th, 2008, 07:22 PM
Apparently turtles suffer from Herpes. I've seen some shows where volunteer veterinarians have to cut away encrustations from around their eyes because it all scabs over and they get blinded. I'm pretty sure that this is human herpes although they mentioned they weren't sure how, exactly, the turtles got it. Probably from being touched by humans? I've seen some turtles all scabbed up, but can't say for sure that it was herpes. If you do touch the turtle, don't touch it THERE! My guess is it's better for all if the turtle isn't touched anywhere by a human.

aascubagirl
December 14th, 2008, 07:43 PM
This is what I tell everyone about touching turtles:

I like turtles, I like seeing turtles, I want to show turtles to other people therefore I don't allow any diver to do anything to any turtle that might make said turtle want to avoid being seen by divers.

The example I give is that if you decide to dive down to the bottom of the pool and you have plenty of time there but someone, however briefly, puts a hand on your head, it's probably going to annoy you since you know you have to go up eventually and for a second you weren't sure if someone else was going to let you or not. That would piss me off and I'd try and avoid letting things with hands that can do that get near me the next time I want to hang out in the bottom of the pool.

Turtles are really fast underwater and can easily scoot away when they hear a group of divers coming because they've had unpleasant encounters in the past.

That's my speech and my philosophy on turtle contact.

Rachel

I have to agree w/wreckchick! When I have divers actually ask (and yes, they do ask) if they can ride a turtle, I ask them how they would like it if a) aliens invaded our planet, b) you are running down the street trying to get away from the aliens, and c) the aliens then jumped on your back. That usually puts it into perspective for them about why it might not be a good idea to try and ride a turtle. ;)

Why not just look and enjoy?

halemanō
December 14th, 2008, 08:02 PM
Apparently turtles suffer from Herpes. I've seen some shows where volunteer veterinarians have to cut away encrustations from around their eyes because it all scabs over and they get blinded. I'm pretty sure that this is human herpes although they mentioned they weren't sure how, exactly, the turtles got it. Probably from being touched by humans? I've seen some turtles all scabbed up, but can't say for sure that it was herpes. If you do touch the turtle, don't touch it THERE! My guess is it's better for all if the turtle isn't touched anywhere by a human.

A simple yahoo or google can save you from typing unfounded rumors about tumors. The virus that causes the tumors is probably partly due to human run off, but it is not considered remotely possible due to human touching.

Link found between leech, turtle tumors | The Honolulu Advertiser | Hawaii's Newspaper (http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2004/Jun/01/ln/ln07a.html)


The study, written by researchers from Cornell University, the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Geological Survey, showed that of the various parasites associated with green sea turtles, only the ozobranchus leeches carry the same virus found in the tumors.

The leech joins the saddleback wrasse, a common reef cleaner fish in Hawai'i, as the only documented likely carriers of the agent causing green turtle fibropapilloma. The disease is specific to the turtle and cannot be spread to humans.

Please note that I do not touch sea turtles and the pictures I took of the same turtles daily for years were mostly ambient. My involvement in this thread is mostly for educational purposes; no need for "refer madness" type hysteria. :no:

RikRaeder
December 15th, 2008, 10:30 AM
Just relating what I saw on a nature program, as I stated. How's the weather up on that high horse? What, exactly, is "the virus" mentioned? The show I saw mentioned herpes. Is it possible that what I saw/mentioned occured somewhere other than Hawaii? Rather than deride me as spreading "refer madness," why not be educational in a non-confrontational way? I'm sure that I'm asking too much since this is the internet. Guffaw.

Walter
December 15th, 2008, 12:23 PM
why not be educational in a non-confrontational way?

His post didn't sound confrontational to me. It sounded educational.

spoolin01
December 15th, 2008, 07:00 PM
What, exactly, is "the virus" mentioned? The show I saw mentioned herpes. Is it possible that what I saw/mentioned occured somewhere other than Hawaii? Rather than deride me as spreading "refer madness," why not be educational in a non-confrontational way?.
I found this early 2005 report from one of the Hawaiian researchers.

http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/hfs/Globals/Products/T%20Work%20final%20Jan_05.pdf

Apparently it's an alpha herpes virus (like chicken pox and HSV1/2), but not particularly closely related to the 3 human alphaherpes viruses from the phylogenetic tree I found. The author claims it's not zoonotic - transmissable between animal and humans - so it's likely not due to a human herpes virus, whether by direct contact or elsewise.

I guess in a strict sense it's strongly suspected but not yet confirmed as the cause of the fibropapilloma in turtles, since a pure culture hasn't been achieved that could be used to reproduce the disease.

Doesn't look like this one is pinned on us yet, try as we might.

LeadTurn_SD
December 15th, 2008, 11:30 PM
Purely anecdotal, but many of the homes in Keaukaha (along the coast near Hilo) used to use cesspools, but were switched to the main Hilo sewer system about 10 years ago(?). This has hopefully resulted in less untreated wastewater entering the ocean near Hilo.... and the owner of the local dive shop did mention less tumors on turtles (an, in my very-unscientific opinion I agree from what I've seen). Soooo, is there a connection with less poluted water and less tumors? Maybe... I'd like to hope so anyway.

spoolin01
December 16th, 2008, 12:04 AM
Purely anecdotal, but many of the homes in Keaukaha (along the coast near Hilo) used to use cesspools, but were switched to the main Hilo sewer system about 10 years ago(?). This has hopefully resulted in less untreated wastewater entering the ocean near Hilo.... and the owner of the local dive shop did mention less tumors on turtles (an, in my very-unscientific opinion I agree from what I've seen). Soooo, is there a connection with less poluted water and less tumors? Maybe... I'd like to hope so anyway.I read that the tumors are present on turtles all around the world, and one person involved speculated that the reduction in incidence in Hawaii was of unknown cause, but possibly due to removing the infected turtles from circulation.

LeadTurn_SD
December 16th, 2008, 12:18 AM
I read that the tumors are present on turtles all around the world, and one person involved speculated that the reduction in incidence in Hawaii was of unknown cause, but possibly due to removing the infected turtles from circulation.

That would also make perfect sense. Removing a vector for transmission, i.e. the infected turtles, should reduce rate of infection if the tumors are caused by a virus carried by the turtles themselves, and not by environmental polution.

But in any case, < tumors makes me a Happy Turtle Lover :D

Kevrumbo
December 16th, 2008, 01:14 AM
The scutes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scute) and margins in between on my pet tortoise are very sensitive, and he literally jumps away when you rub fingers over them (someone said it's analogous to being kicked in the shins, or stubbing your toe). . . I would say look but don't touch the sea turtles at all, period.

halemanō
December 16th, 2008, 01:53 AM
I read that the tumors are present on turtles all around the world, and one person involved speculated that the reduction in incidence in Hawaii was of unknown cause, but possibly due to removing the infected turtles from circulation.

I've met the NOAA Hawaii turtle guy (George Balazs) and I knew some Hawaii tumor turtles were/are euthanized and often used for research, but that's a twist to say euthanizing is helping! Many other turtles had the tumors removed and were returned to their home waters.

The one I saw today at Kapalua Bay had many large tumors, just like many of the turtles I see on a weekly basis. The incidence of tumor growth is decreasing in Hawaii and "circulation" sounds better than an immune system learning how to fight it better or global warming raising the temp above that best for the tumor.

Andy077
December 16th, 2008, 02:25 PM
I'll admit it, I touched one, once, the fellow below, on my second 'real' (post-cert dives in the muck of LI sound) dive ever, he wanted to go where I was, pushed past me, and after I took the photo, let one fingertip trace down the shell. Probably never do it again, but had to do it once.

Scubaman7596
January 28th, 2009, 03:12 AM
Here is my question on the subject.

What if turtles actually seek you out?

We have a boat dive spot where no crap a turtle now turtles actually come to seek the instructor out of the group and will follow him during a dive and literally want his attention.

They dont do it to every instructor on my crew just the person?

what do you think?

llqwyd
January 28th, 2009, 04:28 AM
there are several turtles that follow divers at our local sites. maybe the turtle smells something on that person...maybe the turtle is in love with that person...you could speculate all day as to why a turtle does what he does, but as long as we are unable to "speak" turtle, we won't know.

i think that until we reach that time, or until a turtle comes up and asks for you to touch him, it's hands off! ;)

halemanō
February 1st, 2009, 06:28 PM
I have seen a number of juvi turtles who seemed to think blonde hair would be tasty. I have also known a couple young turtles that apparently enjoyed rubbing up against the dive flag line I was towing (daily event). I once had a young turtle with a hook in the shoulder swim up to me and allow me to get ahold of the tassel, but when I yanked it bolted. If I'd had wire cutters and pliers (leatherman?) I might have had more success.

I have worked with experienced guides that taught me how to communicate that I enjoy the turtle's presence, and after trying it I am now a believer. I will not put that in print, but I will say that when the turtle wipes it's face with it's flipper it may very well be saying "get out of my face!"

markusde
February 1st, 2009, 06:38 PM
I think we shouldn't touch any animals underwater in general. Be it because some are toxic, others get disturbed or even can catch diseases. It's NOT our world down there guys. We are only guests. So take only pictures, leave only bubbles.

Regarding turtles, I'm not a biologist but I can confirm they get scared easily if you treat them the wrong way. Especially at night these poor creatures can freak out with the bright lamps and you can just try to keep the light away and let them flee.

Another theory I've heard - but I don't know if it's true - is that if you catch a turtle from behind and touch their shell too hard they get so scared they swim as fast as they can out to open water until they die of exhaustion. That's what they told me in Curacao.

aascubagirl
February 1st, 2009, 08:37 PM
I am a big fan of look but don't touch. One of the instructors I used to work with always chased the turtles (and everything else) around and get waaaay to close and basically scare them off. It was frustrating to watch and would ruin it for the other divers who entered the water after us as the turtles would take off and not return for several hours. So unfortunately, I got to see first hand the result of being too aggressive with the turtles. My conclusion - don't touch the turtles! And, if they approach you, that doesn't give you carte blanche to touch them...try to respect their space and move back a bit.

LeadTurn_SD
February 3rd, 2009, 05:27 PM
I am a big fan of look but don't touch. One of the instructors I used to work with always chased the turtles (and everything else) around and get waaaay to close and basically scare them off. It was frustrating to watch and would ruin it for the other divers who entered the water after us as the turtles would take off and not return for several hours...

Exactly.

Just dove at Leleiwi here in Hilo on Sunday (Feb. 1st). It was a great of dive, with good viz, lots of very calm, friendly turtles at cleaning stations and swimming freely, more sleeping under coral. One came right up to check out my fins as my legs dangled into the water at the entry point (you have to sort of sit and "scooch" down into chest deep water off of a low lava shelf).

I think by giving the turtles some "personal space", moving slowly and backing-off if they approach us, don't chase them (and NO TOUCHING!), etc., we get a local turtle population that will accept divers in fairly close proximity without fleeing. This is a good thing for both the diver, and much better for the turtles I think.

ichatfilipina
February 14th, 2009, 03:52 AM
What will happen if you touch the turtle? The owner or the turtle will get angry?

Katamuki
February 14th, 2009, 06:26 AM
I dont know about getting herpes from a turtle but I have a HUGE respect for thier jaw strenght. I have watched turtles breaking off large sections of limestone reef with thier beaks to get at soft corals underneath. I have a series of photos of this if someone would like them posted. A turtle can take your finger off clear through the bone if so inclined... and it IS faster than you in the water.

DMJulie
February 14th, 2009, 02:41 PM
Here are a few pictures

Sponsored Link

Search Engine Friendly URLs by vBSEO 3.6.1