Sea turtles need help during nesting season
The public is asked to be on the lookout for nesting sea turtles, as the season gets underway this month.
Honu (Hawaiian green) and honuʻea (Hawaiian hawksbill) turtles nest on Hawaiʻi beaches from mid-April through September; however, nesting can extend into December. The public can ensure that the turtles are successful in laying their eggs by keeping a respectful distance of at least 10 feet from honu and their nest.
The public can also help by reporting honu that are nesting along the beaches of Maui and across the sate to the NOAA Fisheries Marine Wildlife Hotline at 1-888-256-9840.
“The most important thing we can do for honu is give them space,” said Dr. Sheldon Plentovich, USFWS coastal program coordinator. “Most honu nest at night and are easily disturbed by lights, including flashlights, cell phones (e.g., flash photography), bonfires, and flood light from houses. Any bright lights can disorientate nesting females and hatchlings. While we don’t know how many honu will nest along Hawaiʻi beaches this year, both state and federal agencies are working together with our community volunteers to locate and monitor them.”
Honu are known to use beaches state-wide, but nest mostly on Lalo/French Frigate Shoals in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Honu‘ea nest primarily on the islands of Hawaiʹi, Maui, and Moloka‘i. Olive ridley nests have been found on the islands of Hawaiʻi, Maui, and Oʻahu, but are extremely rare.
Honu both nest and bask on Hawai‘i’s beaches so it is important to distinguish between these two activities if reporting nesting activities.
- Honu typically lay their nest at night near or under coastal vegetation, and well above the high tide line.
- Honu digging with their rear flippers after “throwing” sand with their front flippers is likely an indicator of nesting activity.
- · Basking honu are usually found closer to the water (near the high tide line) both during the day and at night.
- Honu do move sand with their front flippers when basking.
Everyone in Hawaiʻi can protect honu. If you see honu on the beach, in the water, or observe any suspected nesting activity, please remember to:
- View honu from a distance of more than 10 feet. Do not touch, feed, or chase them.
- Harassing or disrupting honu or their nests can incur hefty fines.
- Avoid blocking their access to or from the ocean.
- Avoid driving off-road vehicles (trucks and ATVs) on beaches that can crush nests, create tire ruts that trap hatchlings, and degrade habitats. Driving on the beach is also illegal in most areas.
- Report illegal beach driving to the Police Department or the DLNR Enforcement Hotline: 808-643-DLNR or the DLNRTip app.
- Avoid shining bright lights near sea turtles or on nesting beaches after dusk (such as flash photography, cell phone screen lights, flashlights, vehicle lights, exterior building lights, beach fires, etc.).
- Light pollution can disorient adult and hatchling honu, leading them to wander inland, into vegetation or roads, and away from the ocean.
- If you suspect that you may live near a nesting beach, please contact the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office at 808-792-9400 and request information on ‘turtle friendly lighting.’
- Ensure fishing line or rubbish is disposed of properly so sea turtles and their hatchlings do not become entangled. E no’ono’o pono and help keep our reefs and beaches clean.
- Keep dogs leashed to avoid disturbance to honu and other marine wildlife.
- Report suspecting nesting activities to the NOAA Fisheries Marine Wildlife Hotline: 1-888-256-9840.
Community members interested in volunteering can visit NOAA’s Pacific Islands Volunteer Opportunities webpage.