I remember the first time I saw a honu in Maui. We were snorkeling and the honu was just chilling on the coral reef. It was an amazing sight. On our last trip to the big island, the hotel we stayed at had its own lagoon. We went snorkeling early one morning and got to hang out with three beautiful honus. I still have not been able to see on the beach but it is on my photography bucket list. I will keep going back until I am able to photograph a honu on land.
June 16th is World Sea Turtle Day to bring attention to the marine reptile. The US waters have six different species in its waters: loggerhead (southeastern US), Green (Florida), Leatherback (Pacific), Hawksbill (Caribbean), Kemp’s ridley (Mexico), and Olive Ridley (Pacific).
So… why do turtles matter?
Turtles are important sea life because they help protect coral reef and keep the food chain healthy. The coral reef is necessary because they protect shorelines, and provide a habitat for many marine animals and fish. Turtles eat sea sponges which would otherwise take over and damage the coral reef. They also eat jellyfish, which would deplete fish stock and disrupt the food chain.
What are the threats to turtles?
Six of seven species are considered critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable. Threats include fishing, poaching, habitat destruction, and climate change. Honu can get caught in fishing gear and drown. They need to get to the surface to breathe and traditional fishing gear can entangle them and make it difficult, if not impossible, to surface. Some cultures consider the meat and eggs to be a delicacy. Shells can be used for ceremonial purposes or ornamental purposes. Development along coastlines are destroying the habitat because female turtles return to the beach they hatched on to lay eggs. If a condo suddenly goes up she will have nowhere to go. Lastly, climate change is causing sea levels to rise, an increase in the number and intensity of storms contribute to destroying beaches where they nest.
How can I help?
There are many things you can do to help. Advances in fishing and usage of different equipment are helping in that area but as a non-fisher, you can still do many things to aid the plight of honu.
- If you see a nest, leave it alone. The turtle and nests are protected on both the federal and state level.
- Pack out what you pack into the beach. Take all your garbage with you.
- Leave the beach in its natural state. Fill in holes you may have dug. Knock down your sandcastles (I’d suggest taking a few photos to remember all your fun and hard work).
- Use reusable bags instead of plastic. Animals often mistake plastic for food or can become tangled in plastic bags.
- Never release balloons outdoors. The balloons will make their way to the ocean and become choking hazards to all marine animals.