The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is reminding the public to respect Hawaii’s sea turtles by viewing these protected animals responsibly.
The two types of sea turtles most frequently observed in nearshore waters in Hawaii are the green sea turtle and hawksbill sea turtle. Local residents and visitors enjoy being able to view these animals on the beach and in the water.
In particular, locations such as Laniakea and Alii beaches on the North Shore of Oahu as well as other locations on Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii Island 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.
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 Hawaii, sea turtles are protected by the Hawaii Revised Statutes (Chapter 195D) and Hawaii 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. For more information, visit hawaii.gov/dlnr or view a public service announcement at vimeo.com/63933154.
To report suspected violations, call the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement at 587-0077 or 643-DLNR (3567).