Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles
Of the seven species of sea turtles on Earth, the green sea turtle is the most common to be found in Hawaii and you’ll notice that they’re kind of an unofficial mascot here in the Aloha State—appearing on t-shirts, towels, decorations, in business logos, etc. In fact, Holo Holo Charters’ first logo (created in 1997) included a sea turtle!
They’re known locally as honu and are seen as a symbol of prosperity and good luck. In old Hawaii, green sea turtles were thought to be the property of the chiefs, or ali’i. While some individuals and families ate the turtle meat, used their bones for ornaments or fishhooks, and used their shells for containers, others worshipped and cared for turtles like family members.
Green sea turtles are very commonly seen on all of our Kauai boat tours and Niihau boat tours– both gliding peacefully on the surface of the water as we cruise along the coast, and swimming underwater, while we’re snorkeling. Sometimes you’ll even see green sea turtles basking in the warm sun on a sandy beach.
The species’ color comes from the green of its body fat which is due to the turtle’s diet of algae and seagrass; the actual carapace varies from yellowish to olive-brown to black. The average weight of an adult green sea turtle ranges from 150-400 pounds and the average carapace length ranges from 31-44 inches. These remarkable reptiles migrate long distances between their feeding grounds and hatching beaches– the green sea turtles you see in Hawaii generally nest more than 500 miles west of Kauai at the French Frigate Shoals!
Green sea turtles are listed by the International Union for Nature Conservation as endangered. Excess human harvesting, marine pollution, habitat destruction, and egg poaching are all threats to the global population. That said, the local population in Hawaii is doing quite well—yay! But please know that that’s not by coincidence or dumb luck—it’s due to years of hard work and thousands of volunteer hours in protection, education, and conservation efforts.
Therefore, when you see green sea turtles, don’t approach them. Just admire them from a distance and know that today’s your lucky day!