MARINE VISITATION GUIDELINES- Turtles

See Turtles for information about sea turtles in Hawaii.

Try and observe sea turtles on the shore from a distance of at least 20 feet. Puako provides a very important foraging and basking environment for green sea turtles. Stress caused by rubbing, petting, grabbing or holding onto a turtle can cause it to avoid an area important for feeding, reproduction or predator avoidance. Turtles only eat certain types of algae so it is important not to chase them away from their favourite feeding spot.

Do not disturb resting turtles on the ocean floor, under ledges or on rocks. They need to rest to conserve their energy. Since turtles are cold-blooded they need to bask on the rocks to raise their body temperature before returning to the ocean. When viewing turtles on the shore try not to make any noise or do anything to scare them or cause them to move away, such as throwing sand or stones. Do not block their path back to the ocean.

When swimming give turtles space and do not touch them. Turtles must be able to swim freely and come up to breathe air. Grabbing a turtle underwater could drown it if it needs to come up for air. A turtle is may be feeling harassed if it swims away from you when you get too close- turtles can swim at 35mph! Y ou may also see turtles at cleaning stations or being cleaned by reef fishes that eat the algae on their backs, such as damselfish, angelfish or surgeonfish. Don’t frighten them away when this is happening because they need to be kept free of algae.

Watch for turtles while boating - boat strikes can kill.

All sea turtles in Hawaii are protected by both State and Federal Law! It is illegal to kill, capture, touch or harass sea turtles. Fines can be as high as $25,000 and may include a year in prison.

Photographs: Robert Shallenberger and Andrew Walsh.


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