Needless to say, we love our Honu, the endangered and protected Hawaiian green sea turtle. We know most of you do as well. We have been writing about them since Beat of Hawaii began in 2008.
Observation guidelines: Turtles are generally not afraid of people. They are, however, protected by law, and it’s illegal to touch them as was done here. Do not chase or scare turtles, hinder their movement, or swim within 20 feet.
This week, what caught our attention isn’t something we would like to report. But here it is. It comes from a State Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) press release.
“Maui Visitor Cited After Lifting Sea Turtle Out of the Water.”
A Ka’anapali Maui visitor from Georgia, age 60, lifted a federally and state-protected green sea turtle out of the water last week. He claimed that he “was very sorry” and didn’t realize his actions were illegal. Huh? DLNR rightly said that ignorance of the law is no defense.
Last week, the incident got reported via the DLNR Tip phone app, including photos and video of the man and his son in shallow water. The visitors claimed a turtle swam toward them. When the man picked it up out of the water, bystanders hollered at him, and he released the turtle back into the ocean.
DLNR Enforcement Chief Jason Redulla said, “unfortunately, we can’t reach every single person who encounters a turtle or other marine wildlife and hope that people will use their common sense and show respect to these creatures. Ignorance of the law has never been a good defense.”
The man was cited under Hawaii state law for prohibited activities, and the case was referred to federal authorities.
DLNR asks that anyone who witnesses wildlife harassment call the 24-hour DOCARE hotline at (808) 643-DLNR or report suspected violations via the free DLNR Tip app.
Learn About Our Beloved Honu
1. Green: Protected by the endangered species act, and weighing up to 500 pounds, their lifespan is believed to be very long. Green turtles live close to the shores of our islands, feed primarily on seaweed, and swim up to 35 mph. One of the most ancient species of the world, they existed before dinosaurs.
2. Hawksbill: The elusive, nearly extinct hawksbill, ‘ea’ in Hawaiian, is noted for its shiny shell. It is still hunted illegally due to its high value. There are only a few dozen hawksbills still found in Hawaii.
3. Leatherback: The largest of all living turtles (in fact, all sea reptiles), this species has no shell and is covered by a black rubber-like skin and oily flesh. Leatherbacks dwell in deep water away from the island shores, and can weigh up to one ton.
You observe Hawaiian sea turtles on all the major islands: The best sites are on the Big Island’s Kona side. Likely beaches include Anaehoomalu Bay, Honaunau, Kahaluu Beach, Kahuwai Bay, Kukio Beach, and Punaluu Black Sand Beach. Also, on Kauai at and around Poipu Beach Park and Brennecke’s Beach.
If you’ve seen a Hawaiian Sea Turtle, please share your experiences.