Aloha (hello) and e como mai (welcome)!
We’re so excited to announce our new Turtle Island Restoration Network Hawai‘i Program and our first Hawai’i program director, Cheryl King. King is a noted sea turtle biologist, and she looks forward to continuing our important work in the Pacific, now with an island team of dedicated ocean conservationists who are making a positive difference every day. Please let us know if you’re in Hawai‘i and want to join us!
Now… let’s “talk turtles” with Cheryl King.
If you’ve vacationed in Hawai‘i, or are fortunate enough to call Hawai‘i your home, you’ve almost certainly noticed a Hawaiian sea turtle in the wild. How did that experience affect you? Turtles are highly revered in many different ways around the world, which holds true for Hawaiian sea turtles as well. They’re interwoven into Hawaii’s past and present way of life, as shown by lore and legends of old and now adorning countless items in every gift shop.
The Hawaiian Islands provide excellent habitats for sea turtles, and other marine animals, to thrive in. Even more importantly, all Hawaiian sea turtles are fully protected by federal and state laws, making it illegal to harass, pursue, harm, or kill them. So, Hawaiian sea turtles are pretty “lucky to live Hawai‘i”!
There are 7 species of sea turtles in the world, and Hawai‘i is home to 5 of them:
- Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea)
- Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)
- Olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea)
- Green (Chelonia mydas)
- Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata)
The leatherback, loggerhead and olive ridley inhabit the deep, offshore waters surrounding Hawai‘i so are rarely seen unless they’re caught by fishing vessels. The green turtle, known as ‘honu’ in Hawaiian, is commonly sighted basking (resting) on rocky or sandy shorelines and while foraging, resting or mating in their nearshore habitats. The hawksbill turtle, known as ‘honu‘ea’ in Hawaiian, inhabits the same areas as the greens do, but is rarely seen due to its low population numbers.
Both of these Hawaiian species exclusively nest and therefore are born in Hawai‘i: ~95% of the greens nest in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, and the hawksbills only nest in the Main Hawaiian Islands. Research shows that after their pelagic phase as hatchlings, they navigate back to Hawai‘i where they’ll remain for the duration of their lives. Hawaiian sea turtles truly are “kama‘aina” (children of the land), and deserve our respect!