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Help Save Hawaii's Sea Turtles
UPDATE (4/6/2015): Federal agency proposes to keep Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle on the Endangered Species List as "Threatened". Read More >
Speak up for the Honu!
On August 1, 2012, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) responded in favor of a petition requesting to de-list the Hawaii green sea turtle from the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Given current scientific and commercial information, NMFS determined that the proposed delisting may be warranted, and is thus initiating a “status review” to determine next steps.
Hawaii’s honu were considered to be significantly depleted when listed as “Threatened” in 1978, and while trends have indicated a growing population, it has not been determined whether current populations are sustainable and/or warrant delisting. Researchers have noted an increase in nesting females in the French Frigate Shoals since 1973, when only 67 nests were counted. This number reached a record high of 843 nests in 2011, but is still well below the recovery goal of 5,000 nesters per year.
The petition to delist the honu was filed by the Association of Hawai’i Civic Clubs in February of 2012, and specifically asks to:
- Define Hawai’i green sea turtles as a distinct population segment (DPS) – separate from other populations of the same species
- Allow the state of Hawai’i to determine how many turtles are hunted, captured, or taken each year (by de-listing honu from Federal Endangered Species List)
Although AOHCC claimed that the petition was filed for cultural and local governance purposes, many believe it is merely a front for the Western Pacific long-lining industry, who would be allowed to legally “take” more green sea turtles if delisting occurred. AOHCC further argues that honu management should come under the jurisdiction of the state of Hawai’i, due to its importance and usage in native Hawaiian culture.
You would hard-pressed, however, to find evidence of large-scale subsistence hunting of honu in the Hawaiian Islands. In fact, it is much more common to come across instances of honu as ‘aumakua – family gods or deified ancestors of native Hawaiian families.
For more than 100 million years, sea turtles have dutifully played their role in maintaining the health of oceans worldwide. Most recently Pacific Whale Foundation has sent a letter of testimony to National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, declaring our opposition to any delisting decision that fails to meet rigorous scientific standards, protocols and investigations.