A green sea turtle struck by a boat off of Kauai this week had to be euthanized due to the extent of its injuries, wildlife officials confirmed today.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources said the prognosis was poor for the 150-pound turtle, which stranded itself at Gillins beach on the southeast side of Kauai.
Still, officials tried to save it.
They rescued the turtle from the beach and transported it to Oahu for emergency care from Dr. Gregg Levine, a sea turtle veterinarian who works with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Dr. Levine received the turtle at Veterinary Centers of American in Kaneohe on Wednesday night.
The turtle suffered from a large shell wound that exposed part of its lungs, along with clear signs of damage to its spinal cord. Officials decided to humanely euthanize it.
The turtle is just one of 22 that have been reported with boat strike injuries since March, according to Irene Kelly, who is the Sea Turtle Recovery Coordinator for the Pacific Islands Region of NOAA Fisheries. A turtle that is struck by a vessel can sometimes make it to the beach, where they are either found dead or seriously injured, Kelly said. Most do not survive.
”The most heartbreaking part is that large subadults and adults tend to be most at risk,” said Kelly in a news release. “They have survived for 30 or more years, have managed to avoid all other threats, but then get hit by a boat speeding over their home reef. Most of these incidents are avoidable if boaters would simply slow down and keep a close eye out for turtles in the ocean, and especially near harbors where there is high boat traffic.”
Green sea turtles, or Chelonia mydas, are considered threatened in Hawaii, and endangered in other parts of the world.
Oftentimes, sea turtles that are struck by boats are hit with propellers, broadsided by the vessels themselves, or by hydrofoils and other watercraft going too fast.
Officials are urging boaters to slow down and watch out for turtles and to follow best practices that help reduce potential boat strikes.
“Whatever the outcome, far too many turtles are being struck by boats, and other vessels,” said Ed Underwood, administrator of the DLNR Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation in the news release. “We need everyone to slow down and pay attention. Clearly, not all ocean-goers are getting the message and many probably don’t even know they struck a turtle because they’re either going to fast or not paying attention to what’s happening in the water around them,”
Many boat strikes happen in relatively shallow waters, officials said, and typically in or near small boat harbors and boat ramps, where speed limits and no-wake zones are in effect.
Injured or stranded sea turtles or other marine animals, including monk seals, can be reported to NOAA’s 24-hour hotline at 888-256-9840.
>> Post a lookout to help watch out for and avoid marine hazards.
>> Drive slowly (5–10 knots) near harbors and boat ramps to assure a “turtle-safe” transit so both sea turtles and vessel operators have time to evade collisions.
>> Maintain “Slow–No Wake” speeds within 200 feet of shore (vessels), and within 300 feet of shore (jet skis) according to DLNR regulations.
>> Provide a 50-foot buffer between boats and sea turtles; be extra cautious when traveling over shallow reef habitats.
>> Avoid feeding turtles either directly or inadvertently, such as when cleaning fish, so turtles don’t learn to associate boats with food.
>> Wear polarized sunglasses in order to see marine hazards or sea turtles better.