By D. Barclay Wilson
On New Year’s Day we were anchored south of the Ocean Reef Club off Key Largo and chumming hard. We had caught several nice mangrove, mutton, yellowtail, lane snapper and porgies on the shallow patches inside of Hawk’s channel, when a scene out of Caddy Shack occurred where what appeared to be a solid human turd floated slowly through our chum-slick on the tide. The boat owner suggested we take our lines out of the water until it passed. None of us required urging to comply. Thereafter we continued fishing for another hour when yet another, slightly smaller turd floated by.
For some time, we have seen strong west winds blow dirty water out of the Gulf of Mexico. Also, the Key Largo sewer authority has been connecting Ocean Reef Club’s sewer system to the relatively new Key Largo tertiary sewage treatment center. For many years going back and many years to come a sewer pipe off Key Biscayne otherwise known as the crap hole, has and will release billions of gallons of partially treated sewage from Miami into the Gulf Stream. I wondered if any could have been responsible for what I was seeing. Either way it disgusted me and made me think about and our impact on nature.
Soon after the second turd, the boat owner suggested we pull in our lines and move to deeper, cleaner water. On our way out, I texted my friend, Capt. Justin Hopper on the Fantastic II out of Holiday Inn Key Largo:
“We had two turds float by while fishing the inside patches,” I said.
“Turtle turds are all over the place,” he texted back.
I asked if he was joking.
“No sir,” was his response.
Thinking back, I’ve seen the numbers of turtles off Key Largo increase over the years. Earlier this year, my son, who is an adventure photographer, came back with reports of hundreds of the smaller hawksbill turtle hugging the bottom near the reef line. I asked my friend, retired marine studies professor David Makepeace, “Why would they all congregate in such a small area and his response was “Feed, breed, or clean.” He schooled me that sometimes they congregate in an area that serves home to a kind of wrasse who eat parasites off turtles and other sea life in a symbiotic relationship. He also mentioned that we get three different kinds of turtle in the Florida Keys, loggerhead and green are the big ones and then the hawksbill that range in size from one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half feet in length.
I went back to when I’d worked as a mate on private boats to supplement my writing income when I first came to the Keys. My first turtle steak had been at a hotel in Bimini in the early 90s. To this day it is the finest steak I’ve ever tasted. I know they still eat turtle in my wife’s home country of Nicaragua where raw turtle eggs on the half shell for breakfast are considered the best hangover cure in the universe
What I’d thought was further reason for concern about man’s impact on the environment turned out, instead, to be a testament to man’s ability to conserve. Hooray for turtle turds!
Dave Wilson is a Writer, Avid Sportsman, and Financial Advisor living in Key Largo.