LIHUE — A young green sea turtle was reportedly attacked and injured by a man Thursday at Nawiliwili Harbor.
The turtle appeared to have been struck with a rock on its shell, said Don Heacock, Kauai district aquatic biologist with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources. It had several fresh chips on its shell and was on its back when Heacock arrived at the scene about 6:15 p.m. The extent of its injuries was not clear.
“It doesn’t appear to be mortally injured,” Heacock told police.
Police were called when witnesses reported the turtle was being attacked. Police took a butter knife from the scene. A man was questioned by police at the scene, but it was not known if any arrests were made.
Green sea turtles, or honu, are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. Their population has recovered from fewer than 10,000 in the 1970s to 61,000 in 2011 and more today.
Heacock said there were several scenarios as to what might have happened. He said the turtle could have been stressed before Thursday’s incident. He said it might have swallowed debris or a plastic bag and was resting on the rocks beyond the seawall when someone managed to grab it.
“I’m pretty certain that turtle did not come over the wall by itself,” Heacock said, as a crowd of about 15 people watched and listened. “Somebody had to do that.”
He said the keiki honu appeared healthy and was eating well. But he also said it was too weak and stressed to release back to the ocean.
“If you just let it go, it will drown, it will die,” he said.
When Heacock first arrived and picked up the turtle, it showed little movement. But later, when he put the turtle in the back of his pickup, it began moving its flippers, a good sign.
“You’ll be fine,” he said to the turtle. “You’ll be just fine.”
He planned to ship the turtle to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Oahu for evaluation. He said it should recover, and added that turtles “are generally very hardy animals.”
“These are reptiles. They’re 250 million years old,” Heacock said. “They’re truly the kama‘aina of the Hawaiian Islands.