Maui Discussion

Ask the Mayor: “Honu Police” Enforcing No Flash Photography

October 5, 2014, 12:27 PM HST
* Updated October 19, 11:50 AM
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File photo courtesy Kevin J Olson.

File photo courtesy Kevin J Olson.

The mayor answers questions from the public in this series.

By Mayor Alan Arakawa

Q: I heard that when the full moon is out I should go to Hoʻokipa Beach Park so my kids could see the turtles that come up onshore to rest. I went recently and this girl with a jacket that said “Honu Police” told me to turn off my flashlight and to not take flash pictures.

I wasn’t expecting people to be policing the beach at night and didn’t think we were doing anything wrong. I didn’t question who she was or which organization she was with, but I was pretty ticked off. We waited for a couple of minutes just staring at dark shapes that were supposed to be honu then finally left.

I assumed this Honu Police group was part of the state DLNR or Fish and Wildlife but friends of mine said they aren’t with anyone, they’re just wanna be eco-terrorists. We didn’t mean any harm, we weren’t going to touch the turtles, just take a couple of photos with the kids and leave. Who are these guys and what gives them the right to regulate?

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A: According to the National Ocean Atmospheric Administration, turtles at Hoʻokipa are usually “basking” or sleeping on the beach.

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There are no official “Honu Police” that operate under NOAA, DLNR or other agency, but they are likely members of a conservation organization that watches out for turtles. They are not authorized to enforce regulations, but I am told they inform the public on safe viewing guidelines.

Lights and flash photography can indeed disturb turtles, especially nesting turtles, a turtle looking for a place to rest, or hatchlings trying to find their way to the sea. A flashlight shined on a turtle (at night) for a long period of time could undoubtedly harass an animal back into the water. For consistency, it’s better to maintain the practice of no lights around turtles on the beach. It’s best to maintain a 6-10 foot buffer from turtles, regardless of what time of day or night but for best viewing of the turtles at Hoʻokipa, I would recommend visiting after 1 p.m. so you can take photos without having to use a flash.

With regard to the well-meaning “Honu Police,” these conservation volunteers work hard to protect the honu but may sometimes become over-enthusiastic. While it is illegal to impersonate a law-enforcement officer, we do appreciate the volunteers’ protection efforts and those of wildlife officers and staff from state and Federal agencies who monitor the turtles’ presence at Hoʻokipa and at other locations throughout Maui County.

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Want to Ask the Mayor?

Submit your questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa via email: [email protected], phone: 270-7855 or mail: 200 S. High Street, 9th Floor, Wailuku, Hawaii 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the Ask the Mayor column.

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