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Baby turtles hatch under cover of darkness at PMRF

BARKING SANDS — Approximately 55 green sea turtles hatched from a nest on the shore fronting the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility in one evening late last month.

Tracks were discovered leading from the nest to the ocean the following morning. That marked 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, state Department of Land and Natural Resources Kaua‘i Marine Mammal Response field coordinator, for an excavation of the nest on July 30. Among the tasks associated with the excavation was determining the number of hatchlings by collecting egg fragments and 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 three to five 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.

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Tom Clements is a public affairs officer at PMRF.
Source: The Garden Island

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