Oahu sea turtle scientist George Balazs (first photo, with headband) shares information with Pasadena, Calif., visitor Madeline Tao, 7, as he and Maui Ocean Center assistant curator Jim Luecke measure and weigh the green sea turtle "Miki Iki" for the last time before its release Thursday morning in Kaanapali. Miki Iki was one of six 2-year-old turtles set free Thursday as part of Sea Life Park's hatch-and-release program. In the second photo, a juvenile green sea turtle swims free in the ocean for the first time as videographers and Maui Ocean Center staffers follow its progress. The turtles were hatched at the park on Oahu and raised in Maalaea at the Maui Ocean Center. The turtles each have numbers and the letters "MOC" painted on their backs. Swimmers who see the turtles are asked to call the ocean center with the time and location of the sighting at 270-7000. Maui Ocean Center marine biologist Scott Benson (third photo) carries a turtle past a line of spectators on the way to the ocean Thursday. Maui Ocean Center General Manager Kate Zolezzi said that the crowd of several hundred people that turned out to watch the release, as well as listen to music by Marty Dread and peruse the educational booths, was appreciated. "We're just incredibly grateful for the wonderful turnout of public support," Zolezzi said. Sea Life Park staff veterinarian Dr. Beth Doescher said, "This is a really good educational opportunity for the public. The Maui Ocean Center has been a great partner with this program."
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo