Kurtis the sea turtle

The Story of Kurtis

We are grateful for Gary Shoup who participated in the Name-an-Animal program at Pacific Whale Foundation and named a green sea turtle Kurtis in honor of an employee who breeds and raises tortoises as a hobby and passion. He has shared them with our employees and in the classrooms.

Kurtis was sighted by Pacific Whale Foundation’s staff off the coast of South Maui in a place that many people call “Turtle Town” on June 2, 2011. It’s an area offshore from Makena where hot lava from the volcano Haleakala poured into the sea thousands of years ago, creating immense clouds of steam as it cooled and hardened into black rock formations, including undersea rock arches. Today, you can see the black lava rock arches as you swim or dive undersea. Over time, coral reefs have grown up on and around this rock, creating a habitat for fish, invertebrates and other marine life, including green sea turtles. Their abundance gave this area its popular name.

Almost all of Hawaii’s green sea turtles are born in the “East Island Rookery,” a tiny island located in the French Frigate Shoals, in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The green turtles hatch from leathery eggs laid in sandy nests on the beaches of this rookery.

Green sea turtles return to the place of their birth – their natal beach – to mate and lay their eggs.  It’s a journey of about 500 miles each way. Amazingly, mature female green sea turtles make this journey about every two years.

At one time, human hunting of Hawaii’s green turtles at French Frigate Shoals and in the waters off Hawaii had reduced the turtles’ population to dangerously low levels. Thanks to protections provided by the U.S. Endangered Species Act and the establishment of a National Marine Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Hawaii’s population of green sea turtles is believed to be growing at an estimated rate of 5.7%.

We thank you for adopting Kurtis and for supporting Pacific Whale Foundation’s research studies of sea turtles and other marine life, and our work to protect our planet’s oceans.

Kurtis sighting map