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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 20, 2002

Four green sea turtles found butchered on Kaua'i

By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Staff Writer

State wildlife officials are investigating the deaths of four green sea turtles found slaughtered on Moloa'a Beach, Kaua'i, a known nesting site for the threatened species.

The remains were found Sunday. The turtles apparently were butchered for their meat.

Authorities are hoping for witnesses to come forward.

Killing a green sea turtle is a federal offense, with fines up to $25,000 and a year in prison. The green sea turtle found in Hawai'i is classified as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

"This is a species that is far from being recovered,'' said aquatic biologist Don Heacock of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. "These turtles are dying in nettings, from fibropapilloma tumors. We shouldn't be adding any more ways for them to get killed, particularly for adult females, which are important for their offspring to perpetuate the species.''

The turtles, he said, were hacked to the extent that it was nearly impossible to tell what sex they were. But it's likely they were females, he said, since there were tracks on the beach and what appeared to be partial burrows in the sand for egg-laying.

"One plausible scenario is that the females were nesting and they were vulnerable,'' Heacock said.

Heacock said the advanced state of decomposition of the turtles made it too difficult to conduct a necropsy. But the estimated time of death was Friday or last Thursday.

Some visitors staying at a nearby bed-and-breakfast said they heard a commotion on the beach at about midnight Friday, Heacock said.