Sunday, June 19, 2011

A swim off Maui's Southern coast

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles are making a huge comeback. Hunted for the meat and beautiful shell up until a couple of decades ago the green sea turtle has been a conservation success story. Now we are almost guaranteed to see them when snorkeling from the shore of Maui.
We see all different sizes from dinner plate size all the way up to 300lbs giants. Sometimes it is hard to imagine this huge creature emerging out of an egg the size of a ping pong ball. They emerge about the size of a chicken mcnugget, and like a chicken mcnugget everything wants to eat them. Only 1 out of a 1000 will grow old enough and survive long enough to be able to return to its home beach to mate and have babies of its own. Which makes it even more special whenever we get to swim with one. Luckily for them these green sea turtles travel hundreds of miles northward to the NW Hawaiian Islands of the French Frigate Shoals to make their nest. The babies swim out in the ocean currents after being in the nest for about 45 days and then drift around until 8-10 years of age when they start showing up here in the main hawaiian islands.

I have been doing research on these green sea turtles for the past few months with Pacific Whale Foundations research team. I dive down and take pictures of the scales on the side of their face which we can then use to identify which individual turtle it is. We are creating a vast catalogue of turtles to see what kind of movements and behaviors they are doing.
There are other sea turtle species that can be seen here in Hawaiian waters although they are a much rarer treat. Heidi and I were lucky enough to come across an endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle and luckier still to snap some pictures of it. See if you can tell the difference between this hawksbill and the green sea turtles from above.

A couple of spotted puffers, named scientifically after their resemblance to guineafowl of Africa, and a very young yellow tang hid amongst the coral at this site as well.

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