To report a sick or injured sea turtle on the island of Maui, contact:
MOCMI’s Sea Turtle Response Team at (808) 286-2549
MOC Marine Institute (MOCMI) coordinates the response to sick, injured, distressed, or expired sea turtles on the island of Maui, Hawaiʻi in partnership and coordination with NOAA Fisheries. All MOCMI sea turtle stranding response and rescue activities authorized under NOAA Permit: 21260.
Any type of fishing gear, when lost, abandoned, or improperly discarded, becomes derelict or ghost gear. Major sources include both commercial and recreational fisheries. Derelict gear poses a threat to all forms of marine life, including sea turtles, by entanglement and ingestion. Interactions with fishing gear, including monofilament line and hooks, has become the leading cause of stranding for sea turtles in the main Hawaiian Islands.
Sea turtles are either drawn to or accidentally entangled in netting, rope, fishing lines or nets. For individual turtles, injuries from entanglement include, abrasions or loss of limbs; a reduced ability to evade predators; or forage efficiently due to drag, often leading to starvation or drowning.
Foul-Hooked and Ingestion
Sea turtles can be foul-hooked or accidentally ingest fishing hooks. Hooks can either act as a simple piercing or cause direct penetration and tearing injuries. Although the consequences of hooking injuries are obvious, the more threatening part of hook-and-line fishing gear on sea turtles is the trailing line.
Fishing Around Sea Turtles (F.A.S.T.)
In 2012, NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands Regional Office spearheaded the Fishing Around Sea Turtles (FAST) program, a multi-agency effort designed to promote co-existence and educate fishers on practical fishing tips that may help to prevent interactions and reduce the severity of injury to accidentally caught sea turtles.
Fishing Line Recycling Program
To prevent pollution and decrease harmful interactions between sea turtles and fishing line, MOCMI launched the Fishing Line Recycling Program (FLRP) in June 2018. This program started in Maui and was then expanded to Hawaiʻi Island and Oʻahu. The FLRP provides an easily accessible method for fishers to take a hands-on, proactive approach to prevent pollution and reduce entanglement hazards by appropriately discarding their line.
FP is a disease that causes benign, cauliflower-like tumor growths internally and on the soft tissue of sea turtles. In mass, the tumors may inhibit a sea turtle’s sight, mobility, and foraging ability. Although most often seen in green turtles, FP has been found in all sea turtle species. Researchers around the world are studying the disease to identify a cause and potential cure.
Injuries caused by vessel strikes result in sharp and blunt force wounds. The most specific and recognizable wounds caused by vessels are multiple, parallel chop wounds, produced by propellers. The shape of the wounds can vary from straight to curved to sigmoidal depending on the depth of penetration, the movement of the turtle during the strike, and the characteristics of the propeller.
During high tide or high wave energy events, it is possible that sea turtles could get stuck in between rocks, underneath wet, heavy sand or flipped over on its carapace. Sea turtles can typically be easily released or flipped, but if an individual is not found in time, the impact can be detrimental.
Predation is another source of trauma in sea turtles. Sharks are the most common predator of larger turtles. The sharp teeth of sharks produce characteristic injuries, including deep raking and scoring of bone and numerous sharp incisions through the skin and other tissues. Sharks will also scavenge carcasses.
Sea turtles utilize their large lung capacity to regulate their buoyancy. The majority of turtles with buoyancy disorders will be positively buoyant or floating. This occurs when an injury or disease prevents full exhalation of air from the lungs, or when gas accumulates in areas outside the lungs or within the gastrointestinal tract.