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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 7, 2006

Sickly turtle found in harbor perishes

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

The sea turtle was suffering from cancerous tumors and cuts, officials of the National Marine Fisheries Service office here said.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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To report a dead, stranded or sick sea turtle, call the sea turtle hot line on O'ahu at 983-5730 or call the local office of the Department of Land and Natural Resources' Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement hot line number in the phone directory.

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A diseased and suffering sea turtle, wrapped in fishing line, was rescued from the Ala Wai Boat Harbor yesterday but died en route to a veterinarian.

The green sea turtle most likely was not killed by the high levels of bacteria in the area, said Cody Hooven of the National Marine Fisheries Service Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center.

"The turtle had been sick for quite a long time," she said. "With tumors the size that they were, he was sick for months.

"He was definitely moribund, in an unfortunate state and suffering long before he got to the Ala Wai."

The creature, nearly 3 feet long and weighing about 100 pounds, most likely died from fibropapillomatosis, a cancer associated with a herpes-type virus that attacks green turtles, she said.

National Marine Fisheries Service rescuers, wearing gloves, retrieved the animal early yesterday afternoon.

Wearing gloves and washing carefully after a rescue are standard procedure for a turtle rescue, Hooven said, but extra care is taken when the creatures are in the Ala Wai, particularly since the 48-million-gallon sewage spill.

"Even before, we wouldn't get in the Ala Wai," she said.

Pathologist Thierry Work was conducting a necropsy an animal autopsy on the reptile last night, Hooven said.

Judi Clair, an Alaska woman living aboard a 40-foot sailboat temporarily moored in the boat harbor, said she saw the turtle in the water as she made her way back from a harbor bathroom at about 10 a.m. yesterday. She called the National Marine Fisheries Service turtle stranding hot line.

"I just happened to see it just laying there in shallow water," she said. "Just floating. Picking its head up very seldom to get some air.

"I felt so bad," she said.

The turtle was wrapped in fishing line and had cuts around its neck, she said.

"It's eyes were real clouded over and it was covered with slime," she said. "It wasn't doing very well."

Reach Karen Blakeman at kblakeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.