Help share the word — people continue to be reported as getting too close
The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is reminding the public to respect Hawai‘i’s sea turtles by viewing these protected animals responsibly.
The two types of sea turtles most frequently observed in nearshore waters in Hawai‘i are the green sea turtle (honu) and hawksbill (‘ea) sea turtle. Local residents and visitors enjoy being able to view these animals on the beach and in the water.
“We ask for people’s help to ensure turtles are not disturbed, which is especially a concern at high-visitor use beaches,” said DLNR Chairperson William J. Aila, Jr. “We want to remind the community that all sea turtles are protected, and that both state and federal consequences apply to anyone harming green sea turtles.”
In particular, locations such as Laniakea and Ali‘i beaches on the North Shore of O‘ahu as well as other locations on Maui, Kaua‘i, and the island of Hawai‘i have become popular locations to view “basking” (resting) honu. Although this provides an excellent viewing opportunity, it is important to act responsibly and keep a respectful distance. DLNR urges people to give basking honu space to allow them to rest undisturbed, and suggests keeping a 6- to 10-foot buffer as a best practice for sea turtle viewing.
The public is advised to not touch, pick up, restrain, jump over, straddle, pursue, ride, harass, harm, or otherwise disturb these animals.
“In the water, turtles may appear friendly or curious; however, for your safety and theirs, please view them from a distance, act responsibly, and never feed turtles,” Aila added. “A turtle that associates people with food can act aggressively and may bite.”
The green sea turtle is listed as threatened and the hawksbill sea turtle is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Although green sea turtle populations are recovering, they still face threats, including destruction and alteration of nesting and feeding areas, incidental capture in commercial and recreational fisheries, entanglement in and ingestion of marine debris, poaching, disease, vessel strikes, and climate change.
In Hawai‘i, sea turtles are protected by the Hawai‘i Revised Statutes (Chapter 195D) and Hawai‘i Administrative Rules (13-124). Although federal and state wildlife conservation laws differ in some respects, all prohibit actions that can harm, injure, kill, or otherwise disturb sea turtles without a permit. Feeding or touching turtles in any way is considered a disturbance and therefore illegal.
To report suspected violations, call the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) at (808) 587-0077 or 643-DLNR.