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Baby turtles escape under cover of darkness at PMRF

Excavating Green Sea Turtles at PMRF
A team of University of Hawaii specialists on contract with the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sands and a Kauai Marine Mammal Response Field Coordinator from the Protected Species Program of the Division of Aquatic Resources, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources excavate a hatched green sea turtle nest July 30. (Photo by Tara Del Fierro-Duran)

08/06/21 03:21 PM

By Tom Clements
Pacific Missile Range Facility Public Affairs

Approximately 55 green sea turtles hatched from a nest on the shore fronting the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on the evening of July 29.

Tracks were discovered leading from the nest to the ocean the following morning. This is the first hatching of the year at PMRF, and the 10th since 2015.

A team of University of Hawaii specialists on contract with PMRF joined Mimi Olry, DLNR Kauai Marine mammal response field coordinator, for an excavation of the nest on July 30. Among the tasks associated with the excavation are determining the number of hatchlings by collecting egg fragments, collecting DNA, and searching for any remaining hatchlings that had not yet emerged from the nest.

“The nest was discovered June 7, with fencing and signage installed the following day,” said Alyssa Piauwasdy, a UH field biologist. PMRF’s environmental team includes Navy civilian biologists along with contracted specialists. Security and Public Works departments also contribute to managing the safety of the nest site.

Although a typical clutch consists of approximately 100 eggs, Olry offered a possible explanation.

“It is hard to say exactly why this nest had fewer eggs, but Green sea turtles, ‘Honu’” do lay 3-5 nests, and this may have been her last clutch, so she laid fewer eggs,” Olry said. “The good news was that the hatch rate was very high, with 55 out of 56 eggs hatching, so it was a successful nest.”

The shoreline at PMRF is an attractive location for nesting turtles with miles of intact, sandy beaches, relatively low vehicle traffic and lack of nighttime activity on the beach. Turtles are frequently seen basking on PMRF at “Turtle Cove”, the outpouring of Nohili Ditch on the north side of the base, and can occasionally be seen at other areas on base as well.

Find out more by visiting the PMRF Facebook page by clicking here or the PMRF website by clicking here.