FINAL_Green Sea Turtle by wxr16887


									                                                                                                                                                                                         Continued Threats

                                                                                                     PHOTO CREDIT: Bishop Museum
                                                                                                                                                                                          Although the Hawaiian green sea
Cultural Significance                                                                                                                                                                     turtle population is recovering,
                                                                                                                                                                                          turtles are still at risk from
In some creation myths, the sea turtle is the
                                                                                                                                                                                         ingestion and entanglement in
animal on whose back the world was created.
A symbol of longevity, fertility, strength and                                                                                                                                         marine debris and derelict fishing
protection, sea turtles are revered in culture                                                                                     gear, such as gillnets, hooks and line. Turtles may confuse debris such as plastic bags,
and customs around the globe.                                                                                                      plastic and Styrofoam pieces, tar balls, balloons and plastic pellets for food. Consuming
                                                                                                                                   these items or becoming entangled can be hazardous and possibly lead to death.
Pacific Islanders have a strong cultural
relationship with green sea turtles.                                                                                               Disease also poses a problem for turtles. Since
• Turtles are an intrinsic part of the                                                                                             the mid 1980s, green sea turtles in Hawaii have
    traditions and folklore of the region.                                                                                         increasingly been afflicted with fibropapilloma
• Turtles played important roles in religious                                             Photo Credit:
                                                                                       Bishop Museum                               (a tumor causing disease), the cause of which
    ceremonies.                                                                                                                    is still unknown.
• Community relationships and cultural integrity were perpetuated
    through the exchange of turtle meat and turtle products.

In Hawaii, green sea turtles (known as honu) are featured in:
• The fourth verse of the Kumulipo, the Hawaiian creation chant;
• Petroglyphs, legends, myths and stories as helpers, demigods and heroes.
    For example:
    F the hula honu is a dance to honor the turtle aumakua (family god);
    F the legend of the goddess Kauila, the mystical mother                                                                                               HOW YOU CAN HELP
        of all honu, relates turtles to ancient Hawaiian culture; and
• Provided meat and eggs for food, oil to treat skin ailments, and shell                                                            F Keep the oceans free of trash and pollution.
    and bone for tools and weapons.
                                                                                                                                    F Do not leave fishing gear unattended.

Traditional Management                                                                                                              F If a sea turtle becomes entangled in your fishing gear, help to release it,
                                                                                                                                      and be sure to remove any trailing line.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Green Sea Turtles
Turtles were historically part of the diet of Pacific islanders. It is believed that
traditional management provided a buffer on the number of turtles harvested                                                         F If you see a honu in the wild, do not attempt to touch, grab or feed it.
                                                                                                                                      This could cause distress to the turtle.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        of the Pacific Islands
based on kapu [rules] or ‘taboo’ system.
For example:                                                                                                                        F If you should find a sick, injured or stranded turtle:
• Hunting was undertaken ceremoniously and feasts were communal events;                                                                 • In Hawaii, call the Turtle Stranding hotline at NOAA Fisheries,                             Honu • Wong Mool • Haggan Bed’di • I’asa
• In some communities, only certain members (chiefs, priests, or men) were
    permitted to eat turtles; and
                                                                                                                                          Pacific Islands Fishery Science Center (808) 983-5730 or 1-800-853-1964.                    Won • Vonu Dina • Fonu • Wel • Pwaapwaa
                                                                                                                                        • In other Pacific island areas, call the local Wildlife Department (DAWR,
• Turtles were harvested for specific circumstances, such as weddings, funerals,
                                                                                                                                          DFWCO, DMWR).
    religious ceremony, fiestas, canoe building and navigational celebrations.

Current Cultural Issues
• The legal harvest of green sea turtles in U.S. Pacific Islands ended in 1978                                                                                      THE WESTERN PACIFIC REGIONAL FISHERY
  when they were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).                                                                                       MANAGEMENT COUNCIL is one of eight Councils
• Under the ESA, it is illegal to harass, harm, harvest, or sell sea turtles.                                                                                       in the United States established by the Magnuson Fishery
• This application of the ESA, however, barred Native Peoples from including                                                                                        Conservation and Management Act of 1976. The Council
  green sea turtles in traditional practice.                                                                                       1164 Bishop Street, Suite 1400   oversees the nations’ fisheries in the 200mile U.S. Exclusive
• Traditional utilization of green sea turtles became a crime and conceivably                                                            Honolulu, Hawaii 96813     Economic Zone of the Pacific Islands Region (an area as
  marginalizes traditional Pacific Island cultures.                                                                                          Tel: (808) 522-8220    large as the continental U.S.). For more information on
                                                                                                                                            Fax: (808) 522-8226     the Council and its sea turtle conservation program,
• Today, the idea of using of green sea turtle to perpetuate traditional practice
  remains controversial.                                                                                                                 visit                                                      
                                                                                           165°                       160°                                          155°W
                                                                                       SHOALS                                                                                    24°N
                                                                                                                                      OAHU                                       22°

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        100 200 300 400 500
                                                                                                                                                                                                  Figure 3. Estimated number of Hawaiian

                                                                                                                                                                                                  green sea turtles nesting at East Island,
                                                                                                                                                                                                  French Frigate Shoals, NWHI, 1973-2004
                                                                                                                                                                                                  (data source: National Marine Fisheries
                                                                                                                                                                                                  Service, Honolulu lab).

                                                                                                                          #4803                    #4804                                                                                                                      1975   1980   1985   1990   1995   2000   2005
                                                                                                                          Figure 1. Migratory routes of two female                                Conservation
                                                                                                                          Hawaiian green sea turtles #4803 (11 days)
                                                                                                                          and #4804 (26 days) from nesting beaches at                             Globally, the green sea turtle has been subject to a long history of human use and
                                                                                                                          French Frigate Shoals, NWHI, to Kaneohe Bay,                            exploitation, with some populations now extinct or in decline. However, with effective
                                                                                                                          Oahu. Each turtle traveled about 1,200 miles
                                                                                                                                                                                                  public awareness, education and conservation, populations can recover.
                                                                                                                          (graph source: Balazs (1995) 14th Annual Sea
                                                                                                                          Turtle Symposium).                                                      • Green sea turtles were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1978.
                                                                                                  Migrations                                                                                      • After 30 years of research, conservation and management, the once seriously
                                                                                                                                                                                                    depleted Hawaiian green sea turtle population is now well on the road to recovery!
                                                                                                  Although sea turtles live most of their lives in the ocean, adult
                                                                                                  females must return to land to lay their eggs. When Hawaiian                                    • Evidence for recovery can be seen at the nesting beaches of French Frigate Shoals,
                                                                                                  green sea turtles reach sexual maturity at about 30 years of age,                                 NWHI, where more turtles have returned to nest over time (Figure 3).
                                                                                                  they undertake the long migration (every 2 to 5 years) to mate                                    In the main Hawaiian Islands, recent studies indicate that the population is
                                                                                                  and nest at French Frigate Shoals in the Northwestern Hawaiian                                    approaching the maximum capacity that foraging grounds can support.
                                                                                                  Islands (NWHI) (Figure 1).
                                                                                                  Upon departing the nesting beach, hatchlings embark upon a long                                 Non-consumptive versus Consumptive Use
                                                                                                  journey that can last between 5 to 10 years. These years are
                                                                                                  commonly called the “lost years” because researchers know very                                  Turtle behavior in Hawaii has changed over time. Most likely as a result of their protected status
                                                                                                  little about how these small turtles live or where they go before                               and reduced harvest pressure, turtles are now comfortable approaching humans. Hawaii is now
                                                                                                  returning to Hawaii.                                                                            one of the most unique places on earth where people can come face to face with green sea turtles!
Life History and Biology                                                                                                                                                                          Ecotourism, a form of non-consumptive use, is a major industry in Hawaii, and green sea turtles
                                                                                                                          A juvenile Hawaiian green sea turtle will                               are an important component of this market.
Sea turtles are air-breathing marine reptiles.      26°N
                                                                                                                          settle out of the open ocean environment
Their streamlined bodies and large flippers                                                                               and take up residence in the coastal                                    With a recovering population, however, could Hawaiian green sea turtles someday be delisted or
make them well adapted to life in the marine                                                                              habitats of the main Hawaiian Islands                                   removed from the ESA threatened list? If so, would Native Hawaiians be permitted a limited
environment.                                        24°N                                                                  at about 35 cm (14 inches) in size where                                cultural take to maintain traditional practices? These are questions that resource managers must
                                                                                                                          they become important inhabitants of                                    ask, and public input is welcomed.
The green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) is
a long-lived, charismatic species that inhabits                                                                           coral reef communities. However, as data
tropical and subtropical ocean waters throughout    22°N                                                                  from satellite tracking indicates, juvenile
the world. The green sea turtle has distinct                                                                              Hawaiian green sea turtles can also
regional populations, such as the genetically                                                                             undertake extensive migrations (Figure 2).
distinct Hawaiian population.                       20°N
The adult green sea turtles may reach a size of                                                                           Figure 2. The oceanic wandering of a juvenile
1 meter (3 feet) long and weigh 180 kg (400 lbs).                                                                         Hawaiian green sea turtle, Mauna Lani #22270,
                                                                                                                          released June 20, 2002 and tracked for 265 days
The green sea turtle is primarily vegetarians,      18°N                                                                  and 4,847 km (1,940 miles) (graph source:
feeding on algae or limu that grow on coral                                                                               www.Turtletrax).
reefs and rocks in shallow coastal waters.                 164°W   162°W   160°W   158°W      156°W    154°W

                                                                                                                          Photo Credits: National Marine Fisheries Service &

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