Turtle Nesting in Palm Beach County

Turtle Nesting in Palm Beach County

  Palm Beach County coasts are some of the most densely turtle nested areas in the country.  3 species are recorded here: The loggerheads (Caretta caretta) are the most common species in Florida. They can weigh up to 350 pounds (158 kg) and measure around 3 feet (0,90 m). They are omnivores but feed mainly on invertebrates, such as, gastropods, bivalves, crabs and lobsters. The leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea) are the largest of all living turtles. They can weigh up to 2,000 pounds (907 kg) and reach over 6 -7 feet (1,82 m – 2,2 m).  They can be easily distiguished because they do not have a bony shell but a carapace covered by dark grey to black skin with an oily flesh. They feed mostly on jellyfish helping keep this species population under control. Finally, the green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) can weigh up to 450 pounds (204 kg) and can reach 5 feet (1,5 m) in length. They are called this because of the green fat found beneath their caparace and are herbivores. The turtles start arriving to the beaches in March, but the number continues to increase from May until September. Only in the northern county beaches, the Loggerhead Marinelife Center records around 10,000 nests each year. During quiet walks in the night, it is not uncommon to see turtles crawling ashore, digging a nest to deposit around 110 ping pong ball sized eggs.  They then return to the water after this 1 to 3 hour process. The turtles are vulnerable while laying their eggs and can be easily frightened away if disturbed.  Therefore, it is forbidden to take pictures...
Esso Bonaire III

Esso Bonaire III

  It is a warm morning in mid May, and the “Paradise Below” Dive boat takes us to an exciting dive spot, the Esso Bonaire III.  It is a 147 foot long harbor tanker wreck placed 3 miles off the coast of Jupiter and is one of the three wrecks collectively known as Jupiter Wreck Trek.  (GPS coords: 26º 57.85200’N, 80º 0.47202’W)  This steel tanker was built in Honduras in 1926 and sunk in 1989 after the Palm Beach Council seized it when they found 55,000 lbs of marijuana on board. The captain gives the signal: “Dive! Dive! Dive!” and we all enter the water. Surprisingly there is no current, and we can descend calmly together. Before we reach the base of the ship, we cross a large school of Tomtate Grunts.  As soon as we touch bottom at 90 feet, a bull shark welcomes us passing quickly through the group. The wreck is completely covered by various corals and gorgonians and is home to a multitude of large and small marine life.  Even though it is not recommended to enter due to the fragile conditions of the structure, there is plenty to view for all the divers.   Due to the good visibility, we are also able to see some Pork Fish, Grey Triggerfish, turtles and other smaller tropicals surrounding the vessel.  We are quickly led to the deck after seeing some very large Goliath Grouper shadows a few feet away.  These colossal creatures spanned the entire deck in groups of 4 and 5 with some of them weighing in around 350 pounds. While we are observing these gentle giants,...
Lionfished: A Threat to Our Ecosystem

Lionfished: A Threat to Our Ecosystem

South Florida is well known for its gorgeous coral reef systems. It is unique to most other parts of the country in how accessible it is to people. This being said, the marvel that is our coastal waterways has become stressed to strong degree in recent years. This is all due to an invasive intruder, the lionfish. Floridians know all too well the consequences of an unchecked invasive predator. Pythons, in particular, have been an absolute terror on the everglades. Initially native to Indo-Pacific waters, the lionfish has now firmly established itself within the southeastern coast of the United States, in addition to parts of the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. While the specifics of how they found their way into our part of the globe are still not precise, it is generally accepted that like the python, they may have been carelessly dumped into the wild by exotic pet owners. While typically not able to survive in cold waters, they have found a liking to the southeastern marine waterways due to the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Streams naturally warm currents are similar to their native homelands. To make matters worse, it is speculated that lionfish larvae may travel further up the coast of the United States, proliferating themselves to an even further degree. You see, in their natural environment, they reproduce en-masse. Females are known to lay up to 2 million eggs per year. This is what allows them to escape predation. Unfortunately, the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico are not host to any known predators of this particular species, which is what is allowing them...
Spawning Goliath: Grouper Spawning Season

Spawning Goliath: Grouper Spawning Season

Hello, divers of south Florida! It’s September, which means one thing, grouper spawning season. This time of year deep-sea explorers get the chance to take in and behold the spectacle that is the mating habits of one of the largest fish species of our coastal waters. Sure, there’s a good chance we’ve all come across grouper at some point in the duration of our time in Florida, whether it’s during an excursion into one of our many coral reef systems that grow all across the coastline, or perhaps even on our dinner plates. One thing is for certain, the spawning ritual of the Goliath Grouper is an event to behold in itself. Rite of Replication The Goliath’s spawning season occurs during the warmer summer months, stretching across July, August, and September. It is noteworthy to add that the goliath grouper’s cycle is largely influenced by the lunar cycle as well. During breeding cycles, a staggeringly large number of fish congregate, sometime forming schools climbing over 100 members. Typically, the select areas like shipwrecks, secluded patches of reef, and rock ledges to perform their spawning ritual. The males release sperm as the females release their eggs into the open waters. Once fertilized, the eggs become subject to the tides, going whichever way the waters flow. The begin life as kite-shaped larvae, eventually reaching a juvenile stage of maturation at about 25 days after hatching. Gargantuan Wonders of the Deep It is no accident that the title “Goliath” was added to this particular species. At full maturity, they can span body lengths of up to 8 feet long, and weighing in...
Viva Los Tiburones: Why Sharks Are Heroes of the Sea

Viva Los Tiburones: Why Sharks Are Heroes of the Sea

As many have noticed, The Discovery Channel has started its juggernaut of summer programming. First premiering on July 17th, 1988, The Discovery channel has been giving a generous heap of shark-filled goodness. They’ve been chumming the waters for 26 years now and show no signs of stopping. Shark Week is here. With that said, we here at Paradise Below Diving would like to take the time to celebrate the myriad blessings we are given by sharing our waters with these benthic beasts. Feared, Respected Final Bosses of the Ocean In popular media, the appearance of a shark is overwhelmingly portrayed as cause for alarm. It’s true, the average shark is a force to be reckoned with, but the likelihood of a frenzied attack is not quite as conceivable as what movies and television may suggest it to be. According to Iceana.org, in the span of years between 2006 to 2010, there were 110 reported instances of a shark attack in the state of Florida. This is proportionally larger than the rest of the country with the total number of attacks capping out at 179. While the study does not include the severity of attack to any degree, it should be noted that of the total number of attacks in Florida, only a single one was fatal. Take into consideration the fact that the coastal waters of the United States attract over 200 million visitors annually. So in actuality, the percentage of an attack is incredibly low. That said, with over 500 species of sharks in the waters, only around a dozen are considered to be dangerous to humans. Knowing...