Return of nesting sea turtles prompts suspension of overnight camping at Bellows
With the return of the sea turtle nesting period approaching, Marine Corps Base Hawai‘i and the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation announced the suspension of overnight at camping for Bellows Field Beach Park on Oʻahu from Tuesday, May 16 through Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023.
Sea turtles nest on Hawaiʻi beaches from mid-April through September, however, nesting can extend into December according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. People can ensure that they successfully lay their eggs by keeping a respectful distance of at least 10 feet from sea turtles and their nests. And then report any nesting activity to the NOAA Fisheries Marine Wildlife Hotline at 1-888-256-9840.
This approximately 15-week suspension applies to overnight camping and the twilight use of the bathroom and shower facilities. Weekend day-use of this popular stretch of beach in Waimānalo will continue as regularly allowed, as will military training exercises on the weekdays, though protection measures for identified nesting sites will restrict access to those areas.
The campground closure may be extended past Labor Day Weekend camping period (beginning Sept. 1, 2023) should the existence of additional nesting sites be observed. Further updates will be provided as the holiday weekend approaches.
DPR also plans to use this camping suspension period to renovate the public comfort stations and trim ironwood trees.
“This suspension is necessary to ensure the safety of this federally-protected, culturally significant, endangered species as the turtles nest, incubate, and hatch along this popular shoreline,” according to a government issued press release.
“Community, military, and park officials have documented several human activities in this area that threaten the safety of the nesting turtles, such as: illegal beach off-roading, camping fires, dogs, illegal trash dumping, and the presence of artificial lighting,” the release said.
Once a nesting site is confirmed, the area surrounding the nest will be cordoned off from human use. Signs will be posted at the public facilities with information about the turtle nesting sites.
Since 2020, green sea turtle nesting sites have been documented along this pristine, Windward Oʻahu shoreline. Though the exact reason for this previously unprecedented arrival is not completely certain, the first recorded use of these beaches by the nesting turtles coincided with pandemic park closures which resulted in significantly less human visitation to the beach.
Bellows Field Beach Park, located at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, is one of 17 campgrounds operated by DPR. Three-day overnight camping is normally allowed at one of the campground’s 50 campsites with a permit.