Hawai'i State News

Hawaiʻi Marine Animal Response plans to open sea turtle ER, rehab center

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Sea turtles cruising the waters off Hawai‘i can rest assured that a doctor will be available if they have an emergency or maybe need their flippers adjusted after an accident.

An endangered green sea turtle, or honu, rests on a beach. (File photo courtesy of James Grenz)

Hawaiʻi Marine Animal Response, in collaboration with Hawai‘i Pacific University, plans to open the only full-time sea turtle emergency care and rehabilitation facility on O‘ahu.

Plans received a kick start in the form of a $173,200 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The funds are a key milestone that triggers some matching funding to complete the sea turtle care center, which has been in development for 5 years.

The Hawaiʻi Marine Animal Response Care Center will be located at the Hawaiʻi Pacific University Makapuʻu Campus in Waimānalo and begin accepting patients this summer.


“Our dedicated volunteers, interns and staff will be honored to provide emergency care and rehabilitation services for Hawai‘i’s sea turtles,” said Jon Gelman, founder and president of Hawaiʻi Marine Animal Response. “We look forward to providing the resources and medical support to help save these vulnerable animals.”

Oʻahu bears the brunt of sea turtle emergencies, injuries and strandings in Hawaiʻi — on average, about 75% of the statewide totals each year — so the new care center will play an important role in the conservation and protection of sea turtles in Hawaiʻi.

Oʻahu is primarily home to green sea turtles (honu) and hawksbill sea turtles (honuʻea). Both are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act and protected by Hawaiʻi law.

The primary threats to these animals around Oʻahu are interactions with recreational fishing gear such as entanglement and hookings, boat strikes and disease.


“Since our start, [Hawaiʻi Marine Animal Response] has continued to expand and grow our positive impact on the conservation of Hawaiʻi’s marine protected animals and the ocean,” Gelman said.

An endangered honu‘ea, or Hawaiian hawksbill sea turtle, makes its way to the ocean at ‘Āpua Point in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. (File photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

In the coming weeks, the marine animal organization will use its social media channels on Facebook and Instagram to provide further updates about the new center, including staff recruitment, sea turtle care volunteering and internship positions, sponsorship opportunities and other care center activity.

“[Hawaiʻi Pacific University] is excited to partner with HMAR to provide this much needed conservation resource for our island,” said Brenda Jensen, dean of Hawaiʻi Pacific University’s College of Natural and Computational Sciences. “Since the Makapuʻu Campus is the home of our marine science programs, our students are looking forward to new courses, research and internship opportunities that will develop from this effort to reduce human impact on turtles and their reef habitat.”

The marine animal response organization reminds the public to report any sea turtles, Hawaiian monk seals, dolphins, whales or seabirds of concern by calling the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s statewide marine animal hotline at 888-256-9840.


Hawaiʻi Marine Mammal Alliance, doing business as Hawaiʻi Marine Animal Response, is in its ninth year of operations. It is the largest Hawaiʻi nonprofit engaged in marine protected animal response, rescue, stranding support, education, outreach and marine debris removal.

The organization responds in the field thousands of times each year to support the conservation and recovery of Hawaiian monk seals, sea turtles, seabirds and the ocean ecosystem we share.

Learn more about Hawaiʻi Marine Animal Response at its website.

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