HomeNewsUSAHawaiiGreen Sea Turtles in Hawaii, By the Numbers

Green sea turtles bask along the shores of French Frigate Shoals, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Marylou Staman).

Green sea turtles bask along the shores of French Frigate Shoals, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Marylou Staman).

Can you imagine a 1,200-mile commute? Every year, many green sea turtles (or honu as they are locally known) make the 1,200-mile (1,931-kilometer) round-trip migration from foraging habitats in the main Hawaiian Islands to reproduce and nest at French Frigate Shoals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and then swim back again.

Since 1973, biologists with NOAA’s Marine Turtle Biology and Assessment Program have also made the annual trip to remote French Frigate Shoals to monitor nesting activity. This summer, the field biologists started monitoring sea turtles in May and worked tirelessly for four months (usually at night) to count nests, tag nesting females, and count how many hatchlings emerge from nests. Hatchling information provides a measure of reproductive output—important information needed to more accurately assess the status and health of the population.

Program staff tagged every nesting female they encountered (called “saturation tagging”) and carefully etched a number on each turtle’s shell. Turtles are now returning to the main Hawaiian Islands with these numbers on their shells. The public has a unique opportunity to act as citizen scientists to record numbered turtles and gather information to help better understand foraging habitats, migration, and distribution.

If you see a numbered turtle:

  1. Keep a respectful distance of 10 feet (3 meters).
  2. Take a photo (without disturbing the turtle).
  3. Call NOAA to report the turtle’s number and location.

Call NOAA at: 888-256-9840 or email: RespectWildlife@noaa.gov

This menu-based phone number can be used to report sightings or emergencies for sea turtles, monk seals, dolphins, and whales.

Green sea turtle with etched number on its shell in non-toxic paint on the shores of French Frigate Shoals, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Marylou Staman).

Green sea turtle with etched number on its shell in non-toxic paint on the shores of French Frigate Shoals, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Marylou Staman).

Jan Willem Staman carefully numbers a sea turtle on the beach at French Frigate Shoals, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Marylou Staman).

Jan Willem Staman carefully numbers a sea turtle on the beach at French Frigate Shoals, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Marylou Staman).

 

Green sea turtle with numbered shell swims by a turtle biologist at French Frigate Shoals, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (Video: NOAA Fisheries/Jan Willem Staman).

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