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Frequently Asked Questions About Hawaiian Sea Turtles

1. Where do sea turtles live?

Sea turtles are circumglobal animals. Although most species stick to tropical or subtropical areas, the leatherback sea turtle has been known to even go into Arctic waters to feed because of the specially adapted blood vessels allowing for heat exchange to occur.

2. How many species of sea turtles are there?

There are a total of seven species of sea turtles: They are the Green (Chelonia mydas), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Loggerhead (Caretta caretta), Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii), Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), Flatback (Natator depressus) and Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) sea turtle.

3. How many species can be found in Hawaiʻi?

A total of five species can be found in Hawaiian waters.

The most common species of turtle seen is the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle or honu (Pronunciation: hoe-new). These can be identified by the smooth edges of their shell.

The Hawksbill sea turtle or honuʻea (Pronunciation: hoe-new-ay-ah). These turtles can be identified by their hawk-like beak which they got their name from, and have jagged, serrated edges on their shell.

The other three species are the Loggerhead, Olive Ridley, and Leatherback sea turtles but these are only seen out in the open ocean.

4. What do sea turtles eat?

The diet of a sea turtle is dependent on the species and age. Most sea turtle species are carnivorous or eat other animals. For example, the Hawksbill sea turtle is primarily a spongivore which means it primarily eats sea sponges. The green sea turtle is the only species that as an adult is a herbivore. In Hawaiʻi, honu eat primarily limu (Pronounced: lee-moo) or macroalgae.

5. Why are the sea turtles laying on the beach or on rocks? Do they need help?

Nope! The honu you see hauled out of the ocean are displaying a behavior which is known as basking. Just like other types of reptiles, sea turtles are ectothermic which means they rely on the environment to maintain their body temperature and provide them with energy. Despite being marine animals, sea turtles are perfectly okay with being out of the water. Hawaiian green turtles are the only population of sea turtles that bask, and as of right now: Scientists don’t know why!

6. Why is the sea turtle crying?

Don’t worry! They are not crying, they’re simply expressing excess salt from their body. Sea turtles live in a hypertonic environment which means that they live in a saltier environment when compared to their body. As sea turtles consume salt during feeding, they must be able to get rid of the excess to remain in a regulated or isotonic state. Sea turtles possess salt glands in their eyes, and when they have an excess amount of salt in their body they are able to ‘cry’ it out.

7. What makes Hawaiian sea turtles so special?

There are many reasons why sea turtles in Hawaiʻi are important. Culturally, honu are believed to be symbols of good luck, wisdom, and longevity. They are often considered to be sacred ʻaumakua (Pronounced: ow-ma-ku-ah) that protect families and bring good fortune. In Hawaiian mo'ōlelo (Pronounced: mow-oh-lay-low) or stories, sea turtles also frequently make appearances. One mo'ōlelo from Kaʻu tells the story of the human Kauila who was granted the ability by the gods to turn herself into a turtle to watch over the children and play with them in the surf. Scientifically, honu have been isolated genetically from other populations which makes them very unique.

8. How do I tell the sex of a sea turtle?

It can be very difficult to tell the sex of a turtle without special tools unless it is an adult. However, if the turtle is big enough turtles experience dimorphism based on their sex. Typically, female turtles are usually bigger individuals than males. Female turtles possess short, stubby tails in comparison to male turtles which have long, prehensile tails for mating.

Sea turtles have temperature-dependent sex determination This means that while they are in the nest incubating, the temperature of the sand around them determines if they will be female or male. Males are born from cooler nest temperatures, while females are born from warmer nest temperatures.

9. Are there any species of sea turtles that currently nest in the Hawaiian Islands? When do they lay eggs?

Yes! Both honu and honuʻea nest on the Hawaiian islands. Honu typically only nests on the uninhabited islands in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, but sometimes will nest on the main Hawaiian islands. Honuʻea nest primarily on the southern coasts of Hawaiʻi Island, Mauʻi and Molokaʻi.

Nesting primarily occurs from mid-April through September in Hawaiʻi, but can extend into December. Always make sure to maintain 3 meters (10 feet) of distance between sea turtles and potential nesting sites. Do not ever touch turtle nests, eggs, or hatchlings for safety purposes.

10. What are the lumps I see on the turtles?

If you see a lump on a turtle it is probably a benign fibropapillomatosis (Pronounced: Fie-bro-pap-ill-o-my-toe-sis) tumor. It is commonly known as “FP”, and is thought to be a form of the Herpesvirus. This disease can cause the growths to appear anywhere on their body and are commonly seen on their skin, eyes, mouth, and internally. These tumors can interfere with their ability to swim, eat, and breathe making individuals susceptible to predation and sicknesses. The cause and occurrence of transmission of this disease is not fully understood. Scientists are working hard to understand more about this sickness and to try to find ways to help the turtles get better.

11. Why are sea turtles protected in America?

Sea turtles are protected in America because they are important to the ocean's ecosystems and are endangered animals. Sea turtles are important for the health of the ocean because they eat plants and animals, and provide nutrients for other animals as well. Human activities such as hunting, pollution, and habitat destruction have previously led to a decline in sea turtle populations to the point of endangering their survival as a whole. The Endangered Species Act in America has made it illegal to harm or kill sea turtles, disturb them, or trade in their parts. Protecting them in this manner is helping to ensure that they can continue to play their important role in the ocean's ecosystem until there are enough of them where they no longer need protection.

12. How should I behave around sea turtles?

It is important to remember that sea turtles are endangered wild animals, and federally protected from being disturbed by people. You should always attempt to stay 3 meters (10 feet) away from sea turtles to prevent interfering with their behavior. If you are approached by a sea turtle, it is important to remain calm and move away when possible. Although observing sea turtles is a wonderful experience, it is important to remember sea turtles are still wild prey animals and they may see humans as a potential threat.

What do I do if I see a turtle that is distressed, hurt, or dead?

If you see a sea turtle that is in distress, hurt, or dead you should call the Hawaiʻi Statewide Marine Animal Stranding, Entanglement, and Reporting Hotline at (888) 256-9840 to report it.

What do I do if I see someone harassing/hurting a turtle?

If you observe a sea turtle being harassed by an individual, call Hawaiʻi’s DLNR Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement (DOCARE) line at (808) 643-DLNR.



1. ウミガメはどこに住んでいるのか?


2. ウミガメは何種類いるのですか?

ウミガメの仲間は全部で7種類います: アオウミガメ(Chelonia mydas)、タイマイ(Eretmochelys imbricata)、アカウミガメ(Caretta caretta)、ケンプリッドリー(Lepidochelys kempii)、オリーブリッドリー(Lepidochelys olivacea)、フラットバック(Natator depressus)、オサガメ(Dermochelys coriacea)である。

3. ハワイの海には何種類のウミガメが生息していますか?





4. ウミガメは何を食べるの?



5. ウミガメはなぜ砂浜や岩場に寝転がるの?助けが必要なのでしょうか?5


6. なぜウミガメは泣いているのでしょうか?6


7. ハワイのウミガメが特別な存在である理由とは?


8. ウミガメの性別はどうやって見分けるの?



9. 現在、ハワイ諸島で営巣しているウミガメの種類はいますか?いつ卵を産むのでしょうか?



10. ウミガメに見られるしこりは何ですか?10


11. なぜアメリカではウミガメが保護されているのですか?


12. ウミガメのそばではどうすればいいのですか?





ウミガメが個人から嫌がらせを受けているのを目撃した場合、ハワイ州のDLNR自然保護・資源執行部門(DOCARE)のライン((808) 643-3567)に連絡してください。




Department of Land and Natural Resources. (2016). Respect our sea turtles – it’s nesting season in Hawai’i! Aquatic Resources.
HWF. (2022). Green sea turtles. Hawai’i Wildlife Fund.
Jarnesky, A., & Ho‘oulu Staff. (2016). An ’aumakua for Kauila; protecting the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle. Ho’oulu, UH Maui College.

NOAA. (2017). What causes a sea turtle to be born male or female? National Ocean Service.
NOAA. (2021). Fibropapillomatosis and sea turtles – frequently asked questions. National Ocean Service.
NOAA. (2021). Turtles, tourism, and traffic- keeping Hawaiʻi Honu safe. National Ocean Service.
NOAA. (2022). International Sea Turtle Conservation. National Ocean Service.

NOAA. (n.d.). Endangered Species Act. National Ocean Service.
Pierre-Nathoniel, D. (2006). How to behave around sea turtles - Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Saint Lucia.
Reina, R. D., Jones, T. T., & Spotila, J. R. (2002). Salt and water regulation by the Leatherback Sea Turtle Dermochelys Coriacea. Journal of Experimental Biology, 205(13), 1853–1860.


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