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Holomua na Honu
Maui Ocean Center Released Five Green Sea Turtles

August 25, 2011—MA‘ALAEA, MAUI, HI- Maui Ocean Center released five juvenile green sea turtles, honu, into the ocean the morning of Thursday, August 25 at 10:30am from the shores of Ka‘anapali Beach fronting Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel.  Many of the Aquarium’s employees, who have spent two years feeding, cleaning and caring for the honu, were joined by staff of the Department of Land and Natural Resources-Division of Aquatic Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, and the Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel to witness the turtles’ introduction into the open ocean. 

“The turtles are healthy and ready to explore life in the open ocean” said John Gorman, Curator at Maui Ocean Center.  “This is the first year we released from shore and it was exciting to have the community and visitors take part in this special event.”  According to Gorman, the turtles weigh around 30 pounds each. 

Festivities and educational opportunities for this event included presentations by prominent local marine biologists, researchers and community members, informational booths, a turtle encounter, and a blessing of the turtles.  Presentations by Cheryl King of the Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund, Skippy Hau of the Department of Land and Natural Resources-Division of Aquatic Resources, researcher and author Peter Bennett, and George Balazs of the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center provided information on nesting programs, current research, and the Hawskbill Recovery Project.  Several organizations were on hand to provide information and answer questions including the Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Land and Natural Resources-Division of Aquatic Resources, UH-Maui College Marine Option Program, Ka‘anapali Makai Watch, Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel, and Maui Ocean Center.  A highlight of the morning was the chance to experience an up-close and personal encounter with the honu and Maui Ocean Center’s Curatorial staff.  At 10:30am, the honu each received a blessing by Kahu Dane Maxwell, the grandson of Maui Ocean Center’s Hawaiian cultural advisor Charles “Uncle Charlie” Maxwell, Jr., prior to being released to the ocean.

“In Hawaiian culture, green sea turtles are considered na ‘aumakua, a family’s ancestral god or deity that takes the form of an animal,” says Kate Zolezzi, General Manager at Maui Ocean Center.  “In respect for the island’s host culture and the marine animals displayed at the Aquarium, we are honored to have Uncle Charlie or Dane present for the introduction or release of animals at Maui Ocean Center.”

Including the turtles released during Holomua na Honu, a total of thirty-six turtles have been released by Maui Ocean Center through the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Educational Loan Program.  Shortly after the turtles arrived at the Aquarium and their unique personalities began to shine through, a turtle naming contest was held.  Each turtle was appropriately named; 1.  Hau‘oli (happy), 2.  Koa (brave), 3.  Kahakai (seacoast), 4. Malie (calm), and 5. Lanakila (victorious).  The turtles are marked in white with “MOC” and the numbers 1 through 5 on their shells.  Maui residents and visitors are urged to keep an eye out for these turtles.  If you encounter one, please note the day, time and location, and contact Maui Ocean Center at (808) 270-7000 or info@mauioceancenter.com to help with tracking the turtles.

The shore release was made possible with the dedicated and generous assistance of the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Sea Life Park Hawaii, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel, other organizations participating in the event, and many more.

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Educational Loan Program
In partnership with Sea Life Park Hawaii, the sea turtles are part of the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Educational Loan Program, authorized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and conducted under the scientific supervision of National Marine Fisheries Service-Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center.  This program is specifically designed as an educational outreach program geared towards education, conservation, and the enhancement of the public's awareness of the oceans and its inhabitants.

The turtles were hatched at Sea Life Park Hawaii on Oahu and have lived at Maui Ocean Center since August 2009.  Sea Life Park Hawaii is home to a colony of adult Hawaiian green sea turtles which has produced approximately 200 to 800 hatchlings each year, all of which are released into the wild.  Some of these turtles, like the ones at Maui Ocean Center, and those kept at Sea Life Park Hawaii or other collaborating institutions, are released at a later age to provide an educational opportunity for those that visit these institutions, as part of the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Educational Loan Program. 

When the hatchlings reach the ages of two to three years, under the authority and approval of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service-Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, they are released into Hawaiian waters at a location approved by the agencies.  Sea Life Park Hawaii replaces those turtles released with new hatchlings in order to maintain each facility's educational display program.

Each of the five turtles released by Maui Ocean Center was outfitted with Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags implanted in both rear flippers.  The tags, small microchips about the size of a grain of rice, contain an

electromagnetic code.  Using hand-held scanners, researchers are able to identify PIT-tagged turtles.  When the turtles return to land, the PIT tags will allow National Marine Fisheries Service-Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and researchers to identify them as the turtles released from Maui Ocean Center.

The turtles are marked in white with “MOC” and the numbers 1 through 5 on their shells.  Maui residents and visitors are urged to keep an eye out for these turtles.  If you encounter one, please note the day, time and location, and contact Maui Ocean Center at (808) 270-7000 or info@mauioceancenter.com to help with tracking the turtles.

Maui Ocean Center
Maui Ocean Center displays live coral and Hawaiian marine life in over 60 vibrant exhibits.  Twenty-five percent of the animals found at Maui Ocean Center are endemic, meaning they are found nowhere else in the world.  In addition to daily marine life presentations given by ocean naturalists, Maui Ocean Center highlights specific marine species with enhanced presentations, special guest talks, hands-on activities, upgradeable behind the scenes tours and more each month.  Throughout August, Maui Ocean Center celebrates “Turtle Mania” with interactive events that allow guests to experience green sea turtles up close and personal with the opportunity to learn about the biology, behavior and diet of these amazing creatures.  Program details can be found at www.mauioceancenter.com.

Sea Life Park Hawaii
Sea Life Park Hawai‘i is not only a fascinating visitor attraction, it is a repository of knowledge, a refuge and a habitat for some of Hawai‘i’s most important and beloved sea creatures.  Guests swim with dolphins, interact with sea lions, feed sea turtles, and dive with sea rays in an educational and entertainment manner found nowhere else in Hawai‘i.  
Located north of Hanauma Bay, Sea Life Park Hawaii features a beautifully designed park with reefs, lagoons, pools, and theaters. Both adults and children can take part in thrilling water activities and exhilarating encounters with marine mammals. Give your entire family an adventure to look forward to – make a reservation today. The park is open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  For more information, visit www.sealifeparkhawaii.com.

NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is the federal agency, a division of the Department of Commerce, responsible for the stewardship of the nation's living marine resources and their habitat. NMFS is responsible for the management, conservation and protection of living marine resources within the United States' Exclusive Economic Zone (water three to 200 mile offshore). Using the tools provided by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, NMFS assesses and predicts the status of fish stocks, ensures compliance with fisheries regulations and works to reduce wasteful fishing practices. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act, NMFS recovers protected marine species (i.e. whales, turtles) without unnecessarily

impeding economic and recreational opportunities. With the help of the six regional offices and eight councils, NMFS is able to work with communities on fishery management issues. NMFS works to promote sustainable fisheries and to prevent lost economic potential associated with overfishing, declining species and degraded habitats. NMFS strives to balance competing public needs.  For more information visit www.nmfs.noaa.gov.

Department of Land and Natural Resources
The Department and Land and Natural Resources mission:  Enhance, protect, conserve and manage Hawaii’s unique and limited natural, cultural and historic resources held in public trust for current and future generations of visitors and the people of Hawaii nei in partnership with others from the public and private sectors.  For more information visit www.hawaii.gov/dlnr.

Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel
The hotel is located just three miles from Lahaina Town, one of Maui's top visitor attractions. The property is low-rise, on eleven ocean front acres in the heart of the Ka‘anapali Resort, conveniently located between Black Rock and Whaler's Village Shopping Center & Museum. Just across the street are the Ka‘anapali Golf Courses, home of the Wendy's Championship Senior Skins Tournament.  Though moderately priced, Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel offers first class facilities and amenities. The 432 guest rooms average 425 square feet in size with spacious lanais (balconies). Each room has either a king size bed with a twin daybed, or two double beds. High speed Internet, color cable TV, clock radio, coffee maker, hairdryer, iron & ironing board are standard amenities. The hotel offers connecting rooms in every category and rooms that meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards are available.  Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel has been bestowed with the accolade of “Hawaii's Most Hawaiian Hotel” and it's a designation taken seriously. As hosts to visitors from all over the world, it is the hotel’s privilege to spotlight the native culture through the practice of its unique values – giving aloha from the heart.  For more information visit www.kbhmaui.com.

Turtles in Hawai‘i
Of the seven species of sea turtle in the world, five are found in Hawai‘i. The green sea turtle, hawksbill and leatherback are considered native to Hawai‘i, and the loggerhead and olive ridleys are rare visitors. Green sea turtles, known as honu in Hawaiian, are the largest hard-shelled sea turtle in the world, and the most common sea turtle in Hawai‘i. As adults, honu mainly eat algae and sea grasses, which turn their fat layer green, giving them their common name. Green sea turtles are listed as ‘threatened’ under the Endangered Species Act. 

The mission of Maui Ocean Center is to foster understanding, wonder and respect for Hawaii’s marine life. This state-of-the-art aquarium was named the Top Rated Attraction in Hawaii by the Zagat Survey in U.S. Family Travel Guide, a Leader In Responsible Tourism on the Top 100 Blue List by Islands Magazine, and Best Value Family Attraction in Maui in Up! Magazine. Open daily from 9 to 5, and from 9 to 6 in July and August. For more information contact the Maui Ocean Center: 192 Ma‘alaea Road; Ma‘alaea, HI 96793; telephone (808) 270-7000, facsimile (808) 270-7070, email info@mauioceancenter.com or visit www.mauioceancenter.com.
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