This is serious news for the Hawaiian green sea turtle, or honu, as federal fisheries just approved a petition that may allow the species to be hunted and eaten. Submitted by the Hawaii Civic Association – which openly advocates such actions to honu – the petition favors the removal of Hawaiian green sea turtles from the endangered species list.
Since 1978, honu have been protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA), which bans hunting such species. However, the Hawaiian honu are not even close to reaching official federal recovery goals of at least 5,000 nesters per year, according to the Sea Turtle Restoration Project. Honu primarily nest on a beach in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, averaging about 400 to 500 nesters per year since 2002. The highest was 843 in 2011, as stated in a press release from the sea turtle organization. It’s a slow but steady increase in Hawaii’s honu population.
As part of the delisting process, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) will conduct a status review to determine whether the honu population “has grown large enough to ensure it won’t decline or go extinct due to a range of human threats,” the release states. If delisted, the state of Hawaii would have the ability to allow hunting. Other states have done this for other delisted species, such as wolves.
I’m appalled by this news. Imagine enjoying a relaxing day on the beach and suddenly witnessing a gentle green sea turtle massacred right before you and your family. Not a way to spend your vacation. Speaking of which, it’s become a highlight for Hawaii’s tourism and attracts pers, snorkelers and beach-goers to the islands every year. Some beaches, like Laniakea on the North Shore of Oahu, have become a known nesting spot for honu. Tourists flock to its shores for a chance to see honu up close; maybe even get a picture or two.
Honu at Laniakea Beach have become a popular attraction for tourists and locals.
But enough about the humans. What about the honu? Before 1978, hunting nearly caused their extinction. And they’ve got a long road ahead of them. Additional threats to their long-term survival continue to increase over the years – including the loss of nesting beaches resulting from sea level rise, invasive algae, coral bleaching and capture in fishing gear and marine debris. Federal fisheries should instead be working on ways to eliminate those problems, which also threaten other species in the islands.
The public may comment on the petition by Oct. 1, 2012 (https://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2012-0154-0001). Please take time to do this and help save our beloved honu. Mahalo.