Marine Turtle Response Achieves Significant Milestone

808 Turtles Rescued and Released

In 1990, NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) Marine Turtle Research Program initiated a state-wide effort to help injured and sick stranded sea turtles. Since the program began 23 years ago over 800 turtles have been rescued and successfully released. First funded as a Congressional Initiative by the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye, sea turtle stranding response and research is an important facet of the PIFSC Protected Species Division. The success of this activity is a direct reflection of the cooperation, dedication and excellent partnerships between state and federal agencies, private partners, and most importantly, the public. All sea turtles are protected under the US Endangered Species Act and State of Hawaii wildlife laws.

Recently, the 808th turtle was assisted at Kailua Bay, Oahu.  The turtle was found entangled in fishing line wrapped around its body and a front flipper. After carefully disentangling and cutting the fishing line off, the turtle was promptly released and swam away to the cheers of aloha by its rescuers.

Turtle 808 is one of the lucky ones. Since 1990, 62 others found entangled in fishing line have had flippers so severely damaged that amputation by a veterinarian was required to save its life.

Much is learned from these rescues as valuable data are collected such as size, weight, location where the turtle was found, and cause of the problem. In many cases, the turtle is tagged with a microchip so the animal can be identified if found again.

Most of the turtles rescued (63%) are on Oahu, followed by Hawaii Island (19%) and Maui (11%). The green turtle, known in Hawaii as honu, is the most common turtle rescued (96%), followed by small numbers of hawksbills (honu’ea), olive ridleys and one case of a loggerhead, a species seldom found in near shore waters of the Hawaiian Islands. The three most common reasons for rescues are 1) entanglement in fishing lines, 2) interactions with fishing hooks, and 3) interaction with marine debris – usually entanglement in nets.

FAST_poster_pic_cropped  808th_turtle_freed_from_entanglement2

Programs that help reduce interactions with fishing gear such as “Fishing Around Sea Turtles” and “Barbless Circle Hooks” provide useful information that promote co- existence of fishermen and turtles. Fishermen are encouraged to assist if they encounter a hooked or entangled sea turtle and can do so safely. “It’s OK to Help Turtles” provides tips for providing assistance. More information on both programs can be found at:
http://www.fpir.noaa.gov/PRD/prd_fishing_around_sea_turtles.html.

For more information on the use of barbless circle hooks go to:
http://www.pifsc.noaa.gov/barbless_circle_hook

If you encounter a sea turtle in trouble or a dead turtle on the beach, please call the following numbers for each island:

Oahu: 983-5730
Maui: 872-5190 (Kihei) or 893-3172
Big Island: 327-7780 (Hilo) or 881-4200 (Kona)
Kauai: 274-3344
Molokai: 553-5190

About NOAA Fisheries PIFSC

NOAA's Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center conducts scientific research & monitoring that support the conservation and management of living marine resources.
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