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Boaters urged to slow down following North Shore turtle injury

  • COURTESY MALAMA NA HONU

    This undated photo shows the shell of a green sea turtle known as Kaipua that was damaged by a boat propeller earlier this month.

  • COURTESY MALAMA NA HONU

    This undated photo shows Kaipua, a green sea turtle whose shell was damaged by a boat propeller off Oahu’s North Shore this month.

State and federal officials are reminding boaters to slow down and take more precautions after a Hawaiian green sea turtle nicknamed Kaipua was found with what appears to be a propeller injury to its shell.

Kaipua, who frequents Laniakea Beach on Oahu’s North Shore, should be able to recover from the injury, which cut up the back end of its shell, officials said.

Staff and volunteers from Hawaii Marine Animal Response and Malama Na Honu first found Kaipua with the injuries on April 17, and alerted National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries officials.

NOAA’s veterinarian examined the turtle and concluded it had a propeller injury that was healing naturally, and thus, it would recover best in its natural environment.

Kaipua was released back into the ocean at Laniakea. Malama Na Honu, a nonprofit dedicated to sea turtle outreach and education, will monitor her healing process.

“Turtles are very resilient, having evolved to sustain tiger shark bites, among other things,” said Irene Kelly, NOAA’s sea turtle recovery coordinator. “We have seen other turtles heal from similar injuries and we remain very hopeful that Kaipua, or #1016, will be fine. That said, however, this healing process will likely take months or more, and maybe over a year.”

Boat operators can reduce the potential of a collision by posting a lookout while traveling near coral reef habitats and slowing down to 5 to 10 knots near and around harbors. Hotspots for turtle collisions include Kaneohe Bay and Oahu’s North Shore as well as near state harbors.

Since 1990, NOAA says there have been more than 330 boat strikes involving green sea turtles, including 10 to 25 incidents a year that leave a turtle sick, injured or dead.

Kaipua’s shell was etched with the number “1016” for easy identification. Members of the public are encouraged to report spottings of Kaipua to help the team monitor its recovery by emailing pictures to respectwildlfie@noaa.gov. Turtles in distress can also be reported to NOAA’s hotline at 888-256-9840.

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