HONOLULU (KHON2) — Conservation agencies are asking the public to help protect sea turtles by keeping a respectful distance from them and their nests.
In Hawaii, sea turtles typically lay their nest at night near or under coastal vegetation.
Last year, 58 nests were documented on Oahu. Federal and state officials are gearing up for the upcoming summer nesting season, which typically lasts from mid-April through early September.
“The unprecedented level of nesting activity last year took everyone by surprise,” said Dr. Sheldon Plentovich, USFWS coastal program coordinator, in a statement on Friday. “Since 2016 we have worked with community volunteers to locate and monitor sea turtle nests. Between 2016 and 2019 we never observed more than 10 nests on Oahu, so finding 58 in 2020 was very exciting for our team and the local community.”
Remember, if you see a sea turtle on the beach or in the water:
- Keep a distance of at least 10 feet. Do not touch, feed, or chase them.
- Harassing or disrupting a sea turtle or their nest can incur significant penalties, including fines of up to $100,000 and imprisonment of up to one year.
- Avoid beach driving off-road vehicles (trucks and ATVs) that can crush nests, create tire ruts that trap hatchlings, and degrade habitats. Driving on the beach is also illegal in most areas.
- Report illegal beach driving to the Police Department or to DOCARE (643-DLNR).
- Avoid shining bright lights near sea turtles or on nesting beach after dusk (such as flash photography, cell phone screen lights, vehicle lights, exterior building lights, beach fires, etc.).
- Light pollution can disorient sea turtles and hatchlings, leading them to wander inland, into vegetation or roads, and away from the ocean.
- If you suspect that you may live near a nesting beach, contact the USFWS and request information on ‘turtle friendly lighting.’
- Don’t discard fishing line or other trash on the beach. Sea turtles and their hatchlings can become entangled in them.
- Report any suspected nesting activities to NOAA by calling 1-888-256-9840 or by emailing RespectWildlife@noaa.gov.
Those interested in volunteering during this upcoming nesting season to help survey beaches for nesting activity may send an email to RespectWildlife@noaa.gov.