They are found on all parts of the island, from Napali to Poipu. Thanks to sustained conservation efforts, the green sea turtle population in Hawaii has made a significant comeback over the last 25 years but is still considered a threatened species. It’s easy to spot them gliding peacefully near the shore as we snorkel or enjoy a leisurely cruise along the Na Pali Coast on our sailboat Leila. On Kauai’s sunny South Shore, they are occasionally seen sunning on a wide, sandy beach.
The largest of the hard-shelled turtles, the Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) will grow to 1-1.5 meters in length, and weigh 200 kg (440lbs) or more. Its distribution extends throughout tropical, subtropical and some warmer temperate waters. Females lay their eggs on traditional nesting beaches, and the turtles often bask in the sand to warm their ectothermic bodies, but otherwise this species is entirely marine.
The green sea turtle is so named because of the green color of its body fat which is in turn due to the adult turtle’s diet of algae and seagrass. The carapace is actually yellowish to olive-brown to black.
All populations of the Green Sea Turtle are in a vulnerable state. The Hawaii and Southern California green sea turtles are designated Threatened, and the Florida and Mexico populations are designated Endangered.
This threat is due to excess human harvesting and marine pollution. They have long been used as a meat source by many different peoples, and are also sought for their shells, leathery skin, and fat. Other threats to the species’ survival include habitat destruction on their beaches, being caught as by-catch by fishermen, egg poaching, and artificial lighting on nesting beaches, which confuses the hatchlings and lures them toward roads instead of toward the sea.
In Hawaii, the Honu has made a remarkable comeback. It is now valued as a subject of eco-tourism and has even become something of a state mascot. This is due to years of hard work and thousands of volunteer hours in protection, education and conservation efforts.