Saturday, March 26, 2016

turtle rescue at shark pit

Unfortunately it is not uncommon to find a sea turtle in some kind of distress while snorkeling in Maui.  I’m horrified to say that its almost become the norm. Seemingly every time I go snorkeling near my home in Lahaina on the west side of Maui, I see a green sea turtle with fishing line wrapped around its neck or a hook through its fin.  I was so distraught about this when I returned to the island in December, I bought a dive knife to bring with me every time I snorkel.  Like many online purchases I imagine, it gave me some problems because the straps to secure it to my leg were made of rubber and began to dry rot almost immediately in addition to not really doing a very good job at their one purpose anyways, keeping the knife from moving around my leg.  So I stopped wearing it, hoping I could Macgyver some other strapparatus (see what I did there? combined strap and apparatus :).  And I rarely if ever even see a hawksbill as there are only 76 reported hawksbill turtles in all of the Hawaiian islands  (and yes there is a team of marine biologists that keep very good track of the hawksbill population.)  

So, Yesterday I went free diving at the beach right by my house called shark pit which is appropriately named since it houses dozens of docile white tip reef sharks and found a pair of Ray Bans then a friend and I found a huge green sea turtle with just yards upon yards of fishing line wrapped tightly around its neck and left fin.  I didn't have my knife because as it turns out I’m not MacGyver, but luckily my friend had a small pocket knife with him.  I did my best to cut the line from its neck and fin.  I wasn't able to get it all, some of it was so tightly wound around its neck that I couldn't get my finger or knife between the turtle and the line and its left fin was completely immobilized by it. So I did what I could and I hope that the line loosens from the part that I cut and maybe I can free her from the remainder of the line when I see her next.  
I decided I have to figure out my knife problem and called around to some dive shops in town and turns out Hawaiian Rafting Adventures had exactly what I needed. So then today, I returned to the same spot at shark pit and after an hour or so of swimming around, I saw one of my beloved white tip reef sharks dead on the reef because it had bitten a hook which was attached to a long fishing line wrapped tightly around a coral head.  It either suffocated or starved to death because it was bound to a few foot radius of a small coral head by a piece of barbed metal in its mouth and Nylon fishing cord that Google tells me will Biodegrade in about 600 years. I’m afraid sharks cant forgo eating or breathing quite that long.  Feeling terrible about the unnecessary death of this poor little guy, I started to swim in and look for my friend.  As I got close to the channel we have to follow back to the beach he was there and pointed out what he thought was the fishing line bound turtle I had mentioned from yesterday.  This little guy, was however much smaller, sitting in the same spot as I discovered the one from yesterday and was having some issue with its left fin as well.  Diving down and getting closer you could see that a piece of something which turned out to be a square of net had probably found its way to the shoulder are of the turtle where its fin meets its body probably years and years ago when the turtle was much smaller. If I were to estimate, the diameter of that part of the turtle’s fin was about 4” except where the net had kept it to being 2-2.5” at the most.  It was so tight, it had obviously been rubbing this poor guy raw for years so much so that he wouldn't swim with his left fin either. Not to mention the rest of his fin was in really poor shape as well probably from restricted blood flow but also I imagine he had been rubbing up against razor sharp coral for years trying to free himself of the discomfort and had inadvertently scraped of a portion of its fin. We chatted for a minute about the best way to go about this, and I suggested if we could get him to the surface, I might be able to try to cut it out.  No success with that, he was much more fearful of us than the much larger turtle from yesterday and it was too tight to make a speedy cut while swimming a resistant turtle.  I saw a few leisurely tourist paddle boarders and hailed one over to help, he was more than willing. It took a few attempts and about 20 minutes, we were able to get the turtle which turned out to be pretty heavy onto the paddle board so we could keep him still long enough to make a precise cut of just the net.  I tried for a few minutes but didn't have a good enough angle to feel confident that I wouldn't accidentally cut this poor guy in a spot that was already in a ton of pain.  So my friend Lucas took the knife and was able to get it off with one clean cut like a freaking boss!  We closely examined the area to ensure there was no more net and sent him off his way.  I know we got it because as he swam away he did so with both fins, which he hadn't done before!  I hope that now the area that was so constricted for so long can begin to heal… And Lucas happened to get all of this on his GoPro. note the angle isn't the best because we weren't trying to film, we were only concerned with helping the turtle, but luckily, Lucas set the camera down on the paddle board and it happened to be facing the action.   Caution, explicit language. 

And then I called back the lady at Hawaiian Rafting Adventures who'd sold me the strap and told her the story which brought her to tears, gave her goosebumps and didn't make her day but “something much bigger”. 

No comments:

Post a Comment