Report: 276 Sea Turtles Stranded on Maui in 2020, Primary Threat is Fisheries Interactions
In 2020, the Maui Ocean Center’s Marine Institute responded to 276 green sea turtles that were stranded and in need of help on Maui. The organization’s 2020 Sea Turtle Report showed that 250 were located alive and 243 were treated and released back into the ocean.
The Marine Institute’s Sea Turtle Stranding Response Program reported that stranding causes included: fishery interactions (230), lodged in shoreline rocks (9), stuck in the sand (2), buoyancy disorder (4), shark bite (8), disease (1), boat strike (1), other causes (6), and unknown causes (15).
The greatest amount of stranding incidents, 42, were documented in August, followed by July with 41. The least amount were reported in January and February, in which 11 turtle stranding incidents were reported in each of those months.
The Marine Institute reports that Interactions in nearshore coastal fisheries are a primary threat to sea turtles in the main Hawaiian Islands. Between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, 83 percent or 230 of the documented sea turtle stranding events on Maui were a result of interactions with fishing gear.
Before releasing a sea turtle patient, staff biologists insert Passive Integrative Transporter tags into the turtle’s hind flippers. Biologists also use a Dremel to etch a Mototool tag on the shell of the turtle with the initials of the island and the number of the stranding case. The groove is then filled with white paint that the MOCMI says is harmless to the turtle but makes it easier for future observers to view the turtle’s number without disturbing it. These numbers will typically last up to a year, depending on the turtle’s growth rate. MOCMI staff reportedly tagged 75 sea turtles in 2020.
In 2020, the Marine Institute received funding to build the Stevens Family Honu Rescue Lab, the first dedicated space to treat sick and injured sea turtles on the island of Maui.
The MOC Marine Institute also reported receiving 166 reports of basking turtles over the sea turtle response hotline in 2020. The Marine Institute reports that the majority of these reports received are from visitors to the island who are unfamiliar with sea turtle basking behavior.
The MOCMI is accepting donations for stranding response, rescue, and rehabilitation efforts on Maui. The link to donate is available here.