WAILUKU — Fewer sea turtles were found stranded on Maui last year than in 2018, although officials say most cases continue to be caused by fishing gear, officials said.
There were 141 documented cases of green sea turtles stranded on Maui last year, down from 174 in 2018, The Maui News reported Monday.
Among the stranded turtles reported in 2019, 117 were located alive.
Fishing gear caused 102 strandings and 13 were stranded due to unknown causes. The remaining 26 were caused by boat strikes, buoyancy disorders, injured flippers, shark bites, diseases, or turtles becoming stuck in rocks or sand, officials said.
The Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute said fishermen are encouraged to help turtles by removing hooks and lines.
"We hope to raise awareness, especially for fishermen. ... most of our strandings are caused by fishing interactions," said Jennifer Martin, conservation programs coordinator for the institute.
The institute is the nonprofit arm of the Maui Ocean Center aquarium that coordinates responses to sick, injured, distressed, or expired sea turtles on Maui.
More turtles are getting their heads and flippers stuck in illegal nets with clear lines, officials said.
The marine institute operates a recycling program that allows unwanted fishing lines to be placed in designated bins installed at 26 locations along Maui's shoreline and at harbors and boat ramps.
Determining the exact number of turtle strandings is difficult because the figures rely on reporting, Marin said.
"It all depends what people see out there," Martin said.