Wildlife officials need your help tracking green sea turtles in Hawaii

If you see a green sea turtle with a number on its shell, wildlife officials want to hear from you.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tagged 500 green sea turtles as they nested in the French Frigate Shoals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Now, those turtles are returning to the main Hawaiian islands to forage, and officials need your help to track them.

“They can go to the Big Island. They can go to Maui. They can go to Kauai. The interesting thing now is with these identifiers is if the turtles are reported, we’re going to make these connections to viable nesting females in the population,” said T. Todd Jones, NOAA Fisheries marine turtle assessment program. “It’s sort of this unique opportunity for the people here in Hawaii to be sort of connected with our program and help build our database and help build our understanding of the movements of these animals, their distribution, and their habitat use.”

If you see a numbered turtle, call and report it to NOAA at 888-256-9840. This is a new statewide marine animal reporting hotline that can be used to report sightings or emergencies for sea turtles, monk seals, dolphins, and whales. You can also email RespectWildlife@noaa.gov.

“Once we know where those important habitats are for the turtles, then we can better manage and better work with the public to protect the turtles that are in these habitats, and of course we’re talking about the most important members of the population, our nesting females,” said Irene Kelly, NOAA Fisheries sea turtle recovery coordinator.

A turtle egg nest in Ewa Beach recently caught the attention of wildlife officials.

Back in June, a turtle was spotted along the beach digging a nest in the sand and laying eggs.

Officials monitored the nest, but the hatchlings never emerged.

“What we do when we have a known nest or an area where a female has laid eggs, we will wait around 75 days and if we haven’t seen the eruption and the hatchlings haven’t emerged, we’ll then do what’s called an excavation,” explained Jones.

The nest was excavated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and brought to NOAA for inspection. None of the eggs had hatched.

Officials say it’s not uncommon for this to happen.

“Part of the phenomenon itself of the eggs not hatching is completely normal within the biology of sea turtles,” Jones said. “My educated guess would be that it wasn’t fertilized, meaning the female didn’t mate with a male, or that the nest got washed over, which would cause a low oxygen inside the nest.”

The eggs were frozen and will eventually be analyzed.

Wildlife officials say it does not affect their tracking of the green sea turtle population in Hawaii.

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