Rescued Turtle Returns Home

February 3, 2020, 9:39 AM HST · Updated February 3, 9:39 AM
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Scientists rejoiced at the sight of a 250-pound Green Sea Turtle dash beeline back to the ocean.

The turtle, marked as 1036, was released on a beach in Waialua on Thursday, after having its right front flipper amputated almost three weeks ago.

NOAAʻs (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) statewide marine animal response hotline received the report of the injured turtle.

Volunteers & staff from Hawai‘i Marine Animal Response (HMAR) transported the turtle to the NOAA Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center on Ford Island, where veterinarians decided the best course of action was to remove the damaged flipper.

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On Thursday afternoon, a large group of staff and volunteers from partner organizations watched as 1036 returned home.  The turtle was hurt after getting entangled in monofilament fishing line.

Dr. Summer Martin, the leader of the NOAA Marine Turtle Biology Assessment Program confirmed that fishing gear related injuries and deaths continue to increase.

“Our program has been monitoring the population since 1982 and monofilament line entanglement from coastal hook-and-line fisheries is currently the primary threat observed in sea turtle stranding’s in Hawai‘i,” Martin explained in a press release.

Positive outcomes like that of 1036’s, Martin added, are relatively rare.

“It’s not the hook that kills turtles, it’s the fishing line that’s more dangerous. They can live usually with the hooks in them. In addition to entanglement if they ingest the fishing line, foods binds-up to it and cause blockage,” said Nicolas Lopez, HMAR’s Field Manager.

Turtles can also get caught up in lost or abandoned fishing gear. Education and outreach efforts focus on teaching fishers how to safely remove fishing line from a live, entangled turtle, as well as providing information about how to reach stranding program personnel and volunteers for help. They’re also encouraged to use only barbless hooks.

Officials say Turtle 1036 now has a second chance for a good, long life–but the only downside is, because of the loss of his flipper, he’ll no longer be able to breed because males need both front flippers to hold on to a female when mating.

Turtles tend to be creatures of habit, so there’s a pretty good chance Waialua residents and visitors will see 1036 swimming around. If people see him, they’re encouraged to report any sightings, so NOAA can keep track of his healing progress.

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