What to do about injured or sick sea turtles in Hawaii
This page provides guidelines for sightings and contacts involving sick or injured sea turtles in Hawaii:
Information and forms on this page were kindly provided by:
George H. Balazs
Leader, Marine Turtle Research Program
SWFSC Honolulu Laboratory
National Marine Fisheries Service
Guidelines for handling accidentally hooked turtles
Help Hawaiian sea turtles with safe fishing practices
Prevent the event
- Please kokua, do not cast your line where sea turtles are seen surfacing to breathe.
If you hook or entangle a turtle
- Bring the turtle close to you, use your dip net or firmly hold the front flippers and shell to lif the turtle out of the water safely.
- Cut the line close to the hook and remove any line that has become entangled around the turtle. Avoid the turtle's mouth and flipper claws. Use blunt scissors or knife to cuut the line.
- Do NOT
- Do not lift the turtle out of the water by pulling the line--this will result in further injury. If the distance to you from the boat/pier/cliff is too great or the turtle is too large, cut the line as short as possible to release the turtle.
- Do not remove the hook unless the turtle is lightly hooked and it can be taken out without further injury. If uncertain, do not remove the hook!
Turtles with serious cuts, or ingested or deeply imbedded hooks need veterinary care. Keep the turtle in the shade. Immediately call the National Marine Fisheries' Marine Turtle Research Program: 983-5730, or weekends and holidays call the State of Hawaii DOCARE conservation hotline: 587-0077.
Complete the questionnaire
You can help State and Federal biologists determine what actions can be taken to help the turtle by printing out the questionnaire included here and answering as many of the questions as you can. Acrobat Reader is required.
The purpose of this form is to record and obtain information from individuals who have encountered a sea turtles that has been hooked or become entangled in fishing line.
For your convenience, the questions are reproduced below.
Submit the completed questionnaire to:
HOOKED OR ENTANGLED SEA TURTLE
Marine Turtle Research Program
Southwest Fisheries Science Center Honolulu Laboratory
2570 Dole St.
Honolulu, Hawaii 96822-2396
- Where was the turtle seen in terms of geographical location (Hawaiian place name and/or GPS reading) and distance from shore?
- Date and time of sighting?
- Where is the hook embedded in the turtle?
- How deep does the hook appear to go into the turtle?
- What is the estimated size of the hook (length in inches)?
- Is monofilament fishing line attached to the hook? If so, about how long is the line?
- If line is present on the turtle, is it entangled around the neck and/or flippers? Does it go into the mouth? Please briefly describe.
- What is the water depth at this location (depth to the bottom)?
- Where was the turtle seen in the water column: at the bottom, at the surface, at an in between depth?
- What is the estimated size of the turtle (length of upper shell in inches)?
- Does the turtle have free and full motion of its flippers? Does it swim and behave like a normal turtle?
- If the turtle was approached by a diver, do you feel it would rapidly swim away?
- Does the turtle have other injuries or abnormalities? If so, please describe.
- Does the turtle have tumors? If so, please provide your estimate of the overall severity of tumor affliction ("light", "medium", or "heavily" afflicted).
- Has the turtle been seen in this same area on previous occasions? If so, when and how often?
- Do you believe that the turtle is in urgent need of veterinary attention? Is the turtle's well-being and life in jeopardy?
- In your best judgement, what actions do you think should be taken?
- Have other hooked or entangled turtles been seen at this location or at other places known to you? Please describe.
- Please provide:
- Today's date
- Your name
- Phone number where you can be contacted
Mahalo for your co-operation in helping this injured turtle.
The reporting form included here provides a way for you to help determine the status of the fibropapilloma disease in Hawaii. Acrobat Reader is required.
The purpose of this form is to record and obtain information from individuals who are normally encountering turtles during the course of their regular activities (recreational or visitor diving, hiking the shoreline, etc.). Note: All sea turtles in Hawaii are protected by State and Federal regulations. HARASSMENT AND DISTURBANCE ARE STRICTLY PROHIBITED!
Last modified 02/01/26
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