Picture this. You’re walking along Kailua Beach in the early morning and you see a strange bundle on the white sand. And… Did it just move? You approach, cautiously at first, and then rush over when you see a small scaled beak. There, tangled in a heavy net with hooks pulling at its skin, is a hawksbill sea turtle. You don’t know what to do. The net is tightly tangled and you know you can’t safely cut it out without causing more harm. So, you pick up your phone, and you call Hawaii Marine Animal Response.
Hawaii Marine Animal Response (HMAR) responds to hundreds of calls like this every year and, this month, we’ve committed to support them. Our 1% donation will enable them to rescue Hawaii’s protected marine species like the hawksbill sea turtle and provide help for individual animals under threat.
What is Hawaii Marine Animal Response?
Hawaii Marine Animal Response is a non-profit committed to protecting the many endangered marine species that make their home around Hawaii’s islands or visit on their way to distant shores. The heart of the organization is its team of passionate employees and volunteers devoted to the diverse ocean life that shares their home.
Each rescue mission begins with a phone call. HMAR’s helpline is run 7AM to 7PM every day of the year thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers. The caller is often concerned or distressed, believing that they’ve seen an injured animal. Once the volunteer has enough information about the location and condition of the animal, they can send out one of their three fully-kitted response vehicles.
Of course, the response team’s first job upon arrival is to assess, stabilize, or transport the animal they find. HMAR’s response teams are made up of marine biologists and ocean scientists, as well as local volunteers. As experts in their field, they understand the safe ways to touch and care for marine animals without causing additional stress or damage.
The other facet of their job is education. A crowd often gathers around an injured animal. HMAR staff can help to describe how this animal came to be in this state and what these people can do to help in the future. Every interaction like this can create a small shift in attitude. If one person learns the dangers of barbed fishing hooks, for example, they often go on to tell friends and family – creating a more conservation-minded community.
The hawksbill sea turtle
The hawksbill sea turtle is indigenous to Hawaii and found in many tropical oceans. They’re a recognizable species with their overlapping ‘tortoiseshell’ scales and roughly heart-shaped shell with a ‘serrated’ edge. In Hawaiian culture, they are known as ‘ea and serve as spiritual guardians to certain families. They are natural caretakers for coral reefs.
Now, it is estimated that there may only be 400 left in Hawaiian waters. Sea turtles are threatened by human activity, often caught in fishing nets or hooks, poisoned by pollution, and sometimes injured by boat traffic. Other human impacts are not as obvious a threat but can be just as deadly. For newly hatched sea turtles, over-bright street lamps can look like the moon, leading them to move inland. If they don’t head towards the sea, they can die of dehydration along with all of their brothers and sisters. The HMAR team will rescue lost baby sea turtles, seeing them safely into the sea.
HMAR personally rescued over 200 sea turtles in 2021 – both hawksbill and threatened Hawaiian green sea turtles. They are also working towards building a specialized hospital for sea turtles and sea birds. Due to launch later in 2022, this will give each individual the best possible chance of survival.
HMAR does incredible work every day to preserve hawksbill turtles, as well as rare Hawaiian monk seals, seabirds, dolphins, and even the occasional whale. The work isn’t easy, but it is necessary. Every healthy animal can go on to support the survival of its species. By donating 1%, we are proud to help support the daily essentials of a rescue service – from fuel for the response vehicles to increasing staff available to care for injured animals.
As an individual, there are lots of ways to get involved. You can volunteer your time or donate monthly to support sea turtles. You can spread the word by sharing sea turtle facts to increase conservation awareness. And you can choose to support responsible businesses including fishing, retail, and businesses where your purchasing support becomes more support for HMAR.
To all our clients, supporters and staff, we’d like to thank you for making our donations possible.