NCL Kicks Off Turtle Release and Research Program

November 3, 2006
The next time you are snorkeling in Hawaii and spot a green sea turtle, he may just be a former cruiser.

Last month, four baby Hawaiian sea turtles sailed onboard NCL America's brand-new Pride of Hawaii before being released as part of the Honu Aloha program -- a research partnership between NCL America, Sea Life Park by Dolphin Discovery, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Marine Fisheries Service in Honolulu.

The turtles, which were bred and raised at Sea Life Park on the island of Oahu, are outfitted with miniature satellite transmitters (they're glued to their backs); the data collected will help researchers learn more about the turtles' survival instincts, fitness and navigational abilities. Currently, the migratory paths undertaken by these turtles are a mystery to researchers.

In order to conduct such tests, and examine swim patterns in relation to oceanic currents, researchers needed to get the turtles to pelagic (open) waters far from land -- an easy task for a mega-liner circling the islands regularly. Earlier this year, Sea Life Park and the NMFS approached NCL America, a natural choice; the subdivision of Norwegian Cruise Line sails the industry's only U.S.-flagged, all-Hawaii fleet, and is a major player in the region.

According to Kauai news outlet the Garden Island, the turtles flew to Kona where they joined the ship and spent a day on display, rotating between a salt-water pool and cages. The next day, with the ship on a short detour midway between Kona and Kauai, the turtles were lowered into the water from the fourth deck.

KSSK radio station in Honolulu promoted the event, and gave away free cruises to listeners, four of which ultimately named the turtles: Au Ku'oko'a (swim free), Nani Pupu (beautiful shell), Ha'aheo (pride) and Kaimakana (ocean-gifted).

The Honu Aloha program is the only one of its kind in the industry; the green sea turtle is currently listed as a threatened species, which is defined as one that is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future.

Did you know? Honu is the Hawaiian word for the green sea turtle.

--by Melissa Baldwin, Senior Editor.