Maui News

Entangled sea turtle rehabilitated and released 84 days after rescue off Maui

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NOAA Permit: 21260.

A juvenile green sea turtle was returned to the ocean on Wednesday after it was rescued late last year and nursed back to health over the past three months.

A sea turtle response team with Maui Ocean Center’s Marine Institute rescued the turtle on Nov. 17, 2021 near the Kalepolepo Fishpond in Kīhei. The Marine Institute reports the animal was found with fishing line entangled and deeply embedded in both front flippers.

“The turtle arrived at our facility with moderate depth strangulation wounds caused by the fishing line entanglement,” said Tommy Cutt, Executive Director at the MOC Marine Institute. “The turtle’s treatment plan included antibiotic therapy, nutritional support, topical wound care, therapeutic laser, and massage.”

After 84 days of rehabilitation, the turtle was medically cleared for release.

  • Turtle release (2.9.22) PC: Katie Cleary / Peace 4 Animals. NOAA Permit: 21260.
  • Turtle release (2.9.22) PC: Katie Cleary / Peace 4 Animals. NOAA Permit: 21260.
  • Turtle release (2.9.22) PC: Katie Cleary / Peace 4 Animals. NOAA Permit: 21260.
  • Turtle release (2.9.22) PC: Katie Cleary / Peace 4 Animals. NOAA Permit: 21260.
  • Turtle release (2.9.22) PC: Katie Cleary / Peace 4 Animals. NOAA Permit: 21260.

Animal activist Katie Cleary from Peace 4 Animals was on hand Wednesday to help out, along with the MOC Marine Institute’s sea turtle technician, Mikeale Dibble-Kahn.

“Katie is generous with her time and always stops by our Honu Hospital when she is in town to lend a hand,” said Cutt.

Peace 4 Animals is a nonprofit animal welfare organization focused on saving threatened and endangered species around the world. Organization leaders were interested in helping to save marine life off the coast of Hawaiʻi, so they visited MOC Marine Institute on Maui a few years ago and were impressed by their sea turtle rescue program.

“They loved the amazing work that MOC was doing and wanted to help the organization save more Honu on the island,” according to a spokesperson, but were shocked to learn that many were injured due to fishing line entanglement, plastic pollution consumption, boat strike injuries, and disease.


The Maui Ocean Center’s Marine Institute responds to, reports, and rescues sick, injured, distressed, and otherwise compromised sea turtles on the island of Maui. The Marine Institute also rehabilitates sick and injured sea turtles from all of the main Hawaiian Islands that require additional medical care.

Peace 4 Animals made a contribution towards helping MOC construct a small hospital for the hundreds of sea turtles that they rescue every year. “Peace 4 Animals looks forward to our continued partnership with MOC Marine Institute which is going above and beyond to save Hawaiʻi’s precious sea turtles for generations to come,” according to organization leaders.

In 2021, the MOC Marine Institute reported 231 documented stranded sea turtles, 87.4% of which involved fisheries interactions, according to the *2021 Sea Turtle Report. Forty-seven of the cases involved long-term rehabilitation. Two of the responses involved hawksbill sea turtles, and all others involved green sea turtles.

Among the 231 sea turtles stranded in 2021, most were documented on Maui’s south side (136), followed by the west side (54), north shore (29), and central (12).


The Marine Institute operates with four staff members and 36 interns and volunteers. In 2021, the team responded to reports to treat sick and injured sea turtles on Maui, Hawaiʻi Island and Oʻahu.

To report a sick or injured sea turtle, the public can call:

  • Sea Turtle Stranding Hotline – Maui Direct
    808-286-2549 (MOC Marine Institute)
  • NOAA Statewide Marine Animal Response Line

*Cutt, T. J., Browne, C.Y.K., & Dibble-Kahn, M.E. (2022, January). 2021 Impact Report: MOC Marine Institute Sea Turtle Conservation Program. MOC Marine Institute.

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served more than 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.
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