192 Maʻalaea Road, Wailuku, HI, 96793 info@mocmarineinstitute.org Maui Sea Turtle Stranding Hotline: 808-286-2549

Nā Moʻolelo Honu

History in the Making
Chanel Browne
April 30, 2021

Aloha mai kākou!

The first step to any change is to declare that there is a problem. On Thursday, April 29, 2021, Hawaiʻi became the first state in the U.S. to declare a climate emergency, which means that the state of Hawaiʻi is looking at climate change as an immediate threat to humanity and nature. Hawaiʻi legislature has passed Senate Resolution (SCR44), declaring a climate emergency and requesting statewide collaboration toward an immediate transition and emergency mobilization effort to restore a safe climate. 

Now, what does this hold for our future? 

The resolution calls on our government to make meaningful decisions that promote a more sustainable future. There is hope that Hawaiʻi will uphold its promise by replacing fossil fuels with cleaner energy solutions such as solar and wind power. With all this change in the air, it is easy to feel like the power is in the government’s hands. However, there are ways that each of us, or each organization, can make a difference. 

At MOC Marine Institute (MOCMI), we have taken numerous steps to mitigate human impact on the ocean. In various high-activity fishing areas on the island of Maui, you will find our fishing line recycling bins. The Fishing Line Recycling Program (FLRP) provides the community with a way to partake in a cleaner and safer reef for beach-goers and marine animals alike. Simply place your fishing line in one of our bins, and we will do the rest! MOCMI staff and volunteers carefully separate and catalogue all fishing gear by type, size, and weight. The clean fishing line is then shipped off to Berkeley Conservation Institute, melted down, and repurposed into other equipment. The bins help keep discarded fishing gear off of our reefs and reduce the number of hazardous interactions between fishing line and marine animals like corals, monk seals, and sea turtles.

Fishing line recycling bin at Kanahā Beach Park. Photo: MOC Marine Institute

In the month of April, MOCMI has seen double the amount of sea turtle stranding cases as last year during this time. Sea turtle strandings include fishery interactions, shark bites, boat strikes, disease, buoyancy disorder, and incidences where turtles become stuck in rocks or sand. Overall, the greatest threat to sea turtles on Maui is fishing line entanglement caused by nearshore coastal fishing activities. Of the 276 sea turtle strandings that were handled by MOCMI in 2020, over 83% were due to some kind of fishery interaction. Fishing in Hawaiʻi is both cultural and recreational.

Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) entangled in monofilament fishing line. Photo: MOC Marine Institute

For some Hawaiians, fishing is a way of life and a way to put food on to the table. As time has gone on, fishing practices have evolved and become more widespread and advanced. Unfortunately, as more people begin to fish, the interactions between their fishing gear and marine life have become more frequent. It is time for us to do the right thing, and make pono choices that will affect our future and the future of this island that we all call home. If you see any discarded fishing line while at the beach, or while snorkeling, please pick it up and place it in one of our nearest bins. A cleaner, more sustainable future is within our grasp, we just have to work together to achieve it!

Please continue to report any hooked or entangled sea turtles that you may come across on Maui through our stranding hotline (808)286-2649. Please do not try to remove any fishing gear, no matter how easy it may look. Allow us to do our job by responding to your calls and handling all situations in a safe manner. If you would like additional information about our Sea Turtle Conservation Program, our 2020 Sea Turtle Report may be found hereMahalo nui loa for your continued time and dedication to MOCMI and the survival of sea turtles in Hawaiʻi.

Time for A Change
Chanel Browne
March 15, 2021

Aloha mai kākou! Last time we mentioned that we had a full house of honu, or sea turtles, at MOC Marine Institute (MOCMI). In addition to our six patients that we had on hand, numerous honu were brought in, treated, and authorized for release (some were even released on the same day that they were found)! It has been a crazy couple of weeks at MOCMI, to say the least, but there is nothing more satisfying than releasing our rehab patients back to their ocean homes. This is exactly what we got to do with patients M522 and M523! They were admitted into our lab with mild to severe injuries, and it is a pleasure to share each turtle’s recovery moʻolelo, or story.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_9466-1-1024x768.jpg
Patient M523 (“Randy”) receiving therapeutic laser treatment. Photo: MOC Marine Institute

Randy is a juvenile green sea turtle reported through our sea turtle stranding hotline by a local spear-fisherman at Maʻalaea Harbor. We are unsure whether Randy is a male or female because the sex of a sea turtle can only be determined when they reach sexual maturity, which could take more than 20 years! Randy’s front flippers and neck were entangled with a thick, blue monofilament fishing line that was attached to a rock below the surface of the water. Since honu breathe air, we knew that it was only a matter of time before Randy eventually needed to come up for a breath. Our team rushed over and found the turtle covered in mud and silt but alive, which was a huge relief. After only a short couple of weeks of wound care and therapeutic laser treatment, our veterinary team cleared Randy for release!

Patient M523 (“Puʻuwai”) post amputation surgery. Photo: MOC Marine Institute

Puʻuwai is our juvenile Valentine’s day turtle, who is named “heart” in Hawaiian. This turtle was called into our stranding hotline by a concerned Maʻalaea resident. The resident claimed that someone was attempting to remove the monofilament fishing line from the honu near Maʻalaea Harbor. Our team rushed over and were surprised to see that the same thick, blue monofilament fishing line that was found on Randy was also entangled around this turtle’s neck and left front flipper (LFF)! Unfortunately, by the time we found Puʻuwai, the fishing line had already been deeply embedded into the turtle’s flipper and would require amputation surgery. After about three weeks of wound care and nutritional support, Puʻuwai was cleared for release! 

I hope that you enjoyed taking a little peek into our home at MOCMI this week. With every honu story, I believe that there is a lesson to be learned. This blog is a collection of sea turtle stories that are meant to keep us all aware of our impact on the environment and to make us think about the type of legacy that we want to leave behind. Now is the time to make a difference. If you, or someone you know, is interested in taking part in a MOCMI internship, today is the last day to turn in our summer application here

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 1-1024x1024.png
Photo: MOC Marine Institute

As always, if you see a hooked or entangled sea turtle, please contact our team through our stranding hotline at (808)286-2649. Mahalo, for tuning into another week of Nā Moʻolelo Honu and stay tuned for more of our sea turtle adventures in the weeks to come! 

MOC Marine Institute’s sea turtle stranding response, rescue, and rehabilitation activities authorized under NOAA Permit: 21260.

We are Booked!
Chanel Browne
February 19, 2021

Aloha mai kākou! This week at MOC Marine Institute (MOCMI), we have a full house. For the first time in our sea turtle program history, we have six rehab patients at once! Every turtle has its own unique rescue story, treatment plan, and name. Each patient at MOCMI is cared for by staff members, interns, and volunteers who have the best interests in mind for each of them.

The Hawaiian word kākou is an embodiment of togetherness. A common goal that we all have is seeing our turtles make their journeys back to the ocean. When a caller reports a  distressed turtle through our stranding hotline, we work together as a team to provide the care and treatment necessary to get that turtle back to the very beach where they were found. Some days are filled with planning, and others are filled with action. All days are filled with a shared compassion and consideration for these animals. Now, let’s take a look at one of our current patients:

Patient M504 (“Moby”). Photo: MOC Marine Institute

Moby is an adult male honu that was found in the nearshore waters of Pāpalaua Wayside Park. He was found with monofilament fishing line severely entangled and embedded around his left front flipper (LFF) – it was the worst entanglement case that I have ever seen. Moby is the largest patient that we have treated at our turtle lab, weighing in at 108 kg, or 238 lbs, upon the day of his arrival! Little to say that it took more than just a few hands to get this guy up on the table for examination. Moby’s initial treatment plan included therapeutic laser, wound management, and hydro-therapy to save his injured flipper. We thought Moby was on the road to recovery. 

A month after he arrived, we discovered a small area of tissue near the wound site on his LFF had become detached, which left Moby’s LFF immobile and compromised. Our veterinary team comprised of Dr. Paul McCurdy and NOAA veterinarians, Dr. Gregg Levine and Dr. Michelle Barbieri, considered  that Moby’s right front flipper (RFF) was perfectly healthy, and would ensure his ability to survive without his LFF. Honu adapt quickly and are able to survive with one full-functioning front flipper. The decision was made that Moby was to undergo amputation of his LFF. This was an especially hard blow for me and the treatment team who worked with Moby every day, but it is important to remember that Moby’s case was special from the beginning. I believe that every hour that was put into Moby’s treatment put him just a step closer to making his way back to his ocean home. 

“Moby” recovers from amputation surgery. Photo: MOC Marine Institute

Moby is still recovering from his surgery but has the love and support of the entire team at MOCMI. He is getting lots of rest and limu, or algae, from local areas around Maui. To the surprise of staff members, interns, and volunteers, he passed 63 cm, or 24 in, of monofilament fishing line this Monday! His case is still ongoing, but we are all awaiting the exciting day that we will be able to send him off with a big “a hui hou,” or goodbye. 

Stay tuned for next week’s post about our other rehab patients and their individual stories. As always, if you see a hooked or entangled sea turtle, please contact our team through our stranding hotline at (808)286-2649. Mahalo, for your continued time and dedication to our team and the survival of sea turtles in Hawaiʻi.

MOC Marine Institute’s sea turtle stranding response, rescue, and rehabilitation activities authorized under NOAA Permit: 21260.

New Beginnings
Chanel Browne
February 11, 2021

Aloha! My name is Chanel Browne, and I am a Sea Turtle Technician at MOC Marine Institute (MOCMI). I have been working with MOCMI since October 2020 and have assisted in the rescue, response, and rehabilitation of honu, or Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles. I was born and raised on this beautiful island of Maui and from a young age, I was taught that the ocean is a “being” that demands respect from all those who dare to enter it. Along with that respect came a natural wonder to explore and appreciate all it has to offer us. I knew that if I wanted to impact the place I grew up, education would be my gateway.

Photo: MOC Marine Institute. NOAA Permit: 21260

I graduated from Kamehameha Schools Maui in 2015 and decided to continue my education onto college at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. I spent 4 ½ long years in the cold and rain doing fieldwork in the rocky intertidal zones of the Pacific Northwest and received my BS in Biology. With a degree to my name, I moved back home to the valley isle and was finally ready to give back to the place that inspired me to be all I am today. 

To Hawaiians, the ocean is more closely related to a family member than a monotonous lull of waves. We are taught to take care of, or mālama, our family, and the ocean is no different. Each aspect of the work done at MOCMI directly aligns with the values that I grew up with and continue to implement into my adult life. 

Photo: Graham Burdekin

Join me and my team as we work together to preserve the perpetuation of coral reefs and sea turtles in Hawaiʻi. This blog will be a collection of adventurous stories for those ocean lovers interested in staying up-to-date on the daily workings of our organization. Mahalo, for your continued support and willingness to grow with us as we move towards a bright and beautiful Hawaiʻi.

6 Comments on “Nā Moʻolelo Honu

  1. Well done, Chanel! You are a great blogger, offering a nice personal story that ties into the MOCMI mission and inspires us to malama and get involved.

  2. Your beliefs, values and love for the island and ocean are inspiring. It sounds like you are exactly where you are supposed to be. I am looking forward to this journey with you, Chanel! Mahalo!

  3. Love your blog, Chanel, and for sharing your story.

    Keep on blogging💚🐢

  4. This is so well written. Whoever said there’s no such thing as the perfect job was wrong. I wanna be a Honu Technician like you 🙂 What a rewarding job! Love your blog so much. Keep up the great work ♥

  5. Hey Sis,

    A little late to the blogs, but I’m so proud of you! Can’t wait for the internship:) Love you!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *