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Columnist Sharon Nesbit has watched as sea turtles made their comeback at The Cove on Maui.

PHOTO COURTESY: JUDY JONES OF AMES, IOWA - Rescue swimmers from Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute cart an injured turtle off for medical treatment.MAUI, HI — A turtle left here this week for the turtle hospital, one fin lacerated by a tangled web of fishing line which was sawing through its flesh.

Still, the creature, easily 100 pounds and big enough to fill a plastic tub about more than three feet long, did not take well to rescue from the mob of divers, who went into The Cove to bring him/her out. (The sex of a turtle, as you might guess, is a little hard to tell.)

It doesn't take much of a commotion to draw a crowd here at The Cove. So when a largish group of swimmers in official shirts from the Marine Institute of the Maui Ocean Center arrived, there were a lot of front row gawkers. It is no easy matter, even when a turtle is disabled, to capture the creature and hoist it into the a tub.

NESBITThe divers had an assortment of old towels to ease the process.

And then he/she had to be hoisted up the steps of the sea wall in its tub, on to the lawn and out to the parking lot for a ride to the Ocean Center for treatment. When it is well, it will come back to the Cove, likely telling the other turtles, "You won't believe what happened to me."

It is hard to imagine that a creature built like an armored tank can be damaged. But fishing line will do it every time. The very reason anglers are warned to keep track of gear and dispose of it safely. Another turtle in the cove is missing a front fin, its shell marked with a number that, when researched, indicates that it was found entangled in a fishing net.

The guides who claim to know the history here call this place Turtle Cove but when I first came, there were no turtles. People were still being served turtle soup in Lahaina. In 1977 the alarm was sounded about a rapidly diminishing population and the Pacific Green Sea Turtle, along with many other varieties, was placed on the Endangered Species List and given protection. It was a least a decade later that I saw my first turtle in The Cove and came staggering out of the water telling anyone who would listen.

Now, you have to swim carefully to avoid them. A turtle doesn't give a damn where you are. A turtle seems to think it has the right of way, and it does.


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