Letter of Testimony Supporting the Protection of the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle

 

Attn:  Lance Smith

National Marine Fisheries Service

Regulatory Branch Chief

Protected Resources Division

1601 Kapiolani Blvd, Suite 1110, Honolulu, HI 96814

 

Through this letter of testimony, Pacific Whale Foundation, a nonprofit marine conservation organization based on Maui since 1980, formally registers our strong opposition to the petition filed on February 16, 2012 to consider removing the Hawaiian population of green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) from the U.S. Endangered Species List.

While it is understood that the contents of this petition are currently under review, Pacific Whale Foundation felt obliged to speak on behalf of the Hawaiian green sea turtle population.  Locally referred to as honu, the Hawaiian green sea turtle represents an important cultural and biological component of Hawaii’s ecosystems.  Since 1978, the honu has been listed as “Threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, a move that no doubt has led to today’s increased population numbers.

Those in favor of the petition to remove Federal protections argue that “even coral ecosystems are being altered by the overpopulation of honu” (Soulee Stroud).  Statements such as these are not only gross exaggerations of the honu’s impact on Hawaii’s reefs, but more importantly, are not based on valid scientific evidence.  There is, however, a clear and significant threat to Hawaii’s green turtle population in the form of the tumorous disease, fibropapillomatosis. Nesting  populations of the turtles at their primary nesting beach at French Frigate Shoals also continue to fluctuate from year to year and do not, as of yet, indicate a fully recovered population.

Recognizing these inconsistencies, in April of this year, the Hawai’i state legislature successfully turned down two resolutions (H.C.R. 87 and H.R. 61) supporting the Association of Hawaii Civic Club’s petition.  The resolutions were opposed by over 140 testimonies from local and international conservation groups, concerned citizens, and scientists. 

Pacific Whale Foundation is not opposed to the delisting of Endangered Species where delisting is warranted.  Yet in the case of the Hawaiian green sea turtle, we feel that current population estimates and scientific understanding of the species does not meet the criteria for delisting. 

The Endangered Species, Act was created to ensure that endangered and threatened animals and plants were protected, even in the face of conflicting commercial interests. We therefore ask NOAA Fisheries and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider the fate of the Hawaiian population of green sea turtles through rigorous scientific evaluation (see Recovery Plan), and with the understanding that for more than 100 million years, sea turtles have dutifully played their roles in maintaining the health of oceans worldwide.  We the undersigned support the continued protection of the Hawaiian population of green sea turtle, and oppose any delisting decision that fails to meet rigorous scientific standards, protocols and investigations. 

 

Sincerely,

Lauren Campbell, on behalf of Pacific Whale Foundation and its members
Conservation Manager
Pacific Whale Foundation