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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, August 25, 2003

Rusty spear extracted from turtle

Associated Press

MAKENA, Maui — A green sea turtle found off Maui was unable to eat for at least three weeks before a rusty six-inch spear was surgically extracted from its neck.

The 140-pound turtle was flown to O'ahu for the procedure Friday after state wildlife officials rescued it off Pu'u Ola'i.

The turtle was lucky because the spear missed its brain, other vital structures and even blood vessels, said Robert Morris, a veterinarian with the National Marine Fisheries Service who performed the surgery.

However, the spear pinned the turtle's jaws shut, making it impossible to eat. Fortunately, turtles are able to go for several weeks without food, Morris said.

Officials first heard of a turtle with a spear sticking out of its neck July 31. There was a possibility the turtle could be returned to Maui and set free off Pu'u Ola'i, state aquatic biologist Skippy Hau said.

On Aug. 8, a 100-pound green sea turtle with a noose around its neck was found dead on a beach in Lahaina. The rope was tied to a metal spike in the sand.

Green sea turtles are a threatened species, protected by state and federal laws. Anyone found guilty of committing a criminal act against a turtle could face fines of up to $5,000 per violation and administrative fees as high as $10,000.

Investigations into both cases are continuing, officials said.