By Gina Mangieri
Hawaii's green sea turtles are an endangered species, but some poachers are breaking state and federal law. It's an often gruesome crime that threatens decades of efforts to protect them from extinction.
Authorities know poaching happens, but proving it and catching the culprits isn't easy.
Green sea turtles basking on Hawaii beaches or cruising in the ocean -- the rule is look but don't touch. Still, many can't resist the urge to reach out with what they think is care. Others cross the line to obvious mistreatment, while at the worst, poachers hunt an endangered species.
"Everybody thinks that they're being eaten," says concerned Makaha resident Inez Larson, who has taken on the cause of alerting her community to suspected turtle violations. “Witnesses have seen it on other beaches, people cleaning the turtles out on the beach, gutting them out, putting the meat in the cooler and then walking away with the shell and the meat."
She and others have tried to form watch groups.
"My room is right next to the trail,” says Kainalu Medeiros, who lives near a beach lane in the Makaha area. “Late at night I can hear the cars pull up. Twice I caught guys carrying a turtle that way, they never did come over here. I ran after one of them but he got away."
"You come here in the morning every other day there are tracks either from a cooler being dragged or the turtle being pushed,” Larson says. “They take them from where they bask there and they just drag them up the rocks."
"Lately it feels like there are less turtles,” says neighbor Angela Arbuckle. “Some nights we could see 4, 5 6 beach, and then there's nights where there's one or none, some nights with none my instinct would say that there's danger here."
“There is concern among the neighbors,” Arbuckle adds. “I wake up often with an unsettled commotion that wakes me up and it can last for 20 minutes, and so I’m not comfortable leaving my house to check it out.” More....