On the Hawaiian Islands the green sea turtles that frequent local beaches and reefs are known affectionately as honu. The honu in Hawaii have a rich history, experienced dramatic declines in recent decades, and have been recovering slowly thanks to many local efforts to protect them and their beach habitats. The Sea Turtle Restoration Project has been fighting for many years to ensure the main threat to their survival, deadly industrial fisheries, increase sea turtle protections and decrease their allowable killings of these endangered species. Whether they are cavorting among coral reefs or sunning on the beach, the honu have many caring individuals looking out for them.
On the north shore of Oahu, the honu regularly come ashore at Laniakea Beach to sun themselves after filling their bellies with the lush green algae covering the rocky reefs. When they arrive on the beach, they are greeted by throngs of curious tourists and a group of dedicated local volunteers that protect the turtles from harassment.
It is quite a site to watch! With each lunge forward, cheers and screams emit from the dozens of tourists from across the globe that are drawn to this spot in the hopes of seeing sea turtles. The Japanese are especially vocal! The volunteer honu protectors can quickly identify the individual sea turtles by markings on their shells, and adjust their protective barriers and informational signs as each one arrives, creating a safe and educational zone for all. Their love for the honu is apparent with each caring adjustment and in each thoughtful conversation they have with onlookers.
Since SCUBA diving is one of my passions, I always try to spend as much time underwater on each trip to Hawaii, and a regular partner for these adventures are the great folks at Deep Ecology in Haleiwa on the north shore of Oahu. This trip, we headed to Turtle Canyon! Known as a regular hangout and cleaning station for several honu, Turtle Canyon delivered a fantastic experience once again. Reaching the bottom at this relatively shallow dive spot took only 5 minutes, and finding a peaceful honu resting under a coral outcropping took another 1 minute. I kept my distance and snapped a few photos before the honu woke up and swam up for air.
My dive buddy and several others followed the expert Deep Ecology dive master to the end of the reef to a regular sea turtle cleaning station. On our way there, we were passed by another honu, swimming gracefully by us. The sea turtle settled in the sand and we all watched from a distance as it covered itself in a light coat of sand. The camera came out again, and those memories will last a lifetime.
Longline fishing in and around Hawaii has deadly consequences to the sea turtles that live and migrate through the central Pacific. The Sea Turtle Restoration Project has taken legal action on several fronts to close the deadly longline fisheries due to their unacceptable deadly bycatch of sea turtles and marine mammals. We will continue to fight these battles with your support to ensure the honu are protected and all Pacific sea turtles are safeguarded from extinction.
photos: Chris Pincetich, Sea Turtle Restoration Project
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