About the Green Sea Turtle (Honu)
The most common sea turtle species in Hawaii is the Hawaiian green sea turtle (Honu). They are regularly found resting under underwater ledges, basking on beaches, and nibbling on algae in shallow waters. The average shell length of an adult Honu is 3-4 feet and they weigh about 250 pounds. However, they can grow to a weight of 700 pounds. The average life span of green sea turtles is 75-80 years, linking them to humans in a special way.
Despite their name, green sea turtles do not actually appear “green” – at least not from the outside. Instead, the name “green” comes from the color of their internal fat tissue, due to an algae rich diet. Unlike some other species of sea turtle, the green sea turtle is a vegetarian. They are commonly seen cruising the many reefs in Hawaii. They can reach speeds up to 20 miles per hour.
In addition to feeding and resting, Honu also enjoys sunbathing. This behavior, thought to be a way to conserve energy or boost body temperature, has been witnessed in Australia, the Galapagos Islands, and Hawaii. Though watching sea turtles on the beach is a unique way to witness them in their natural habitat, it is important to keep a respectful distance of more than 15 feet while quietly watching them and, most importantly, refrain from using bright lights or flash photography.
More than 90% of Hawaiian green sea turtles nest in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. If you’re a Maui turtle, that’s a 650-mile swim, one way! It takes turtles about one month to swim there and another month to swim back, so they don’t nest or migrate to mate every year. Depending on their health and age, they make this journey every 2-7+ years.
Male and female honu can both be found in the main Hawaiian Islands, but their gender cannot be determined unless the turtle is of breeding size (3 ft shell length). Males have a longer, thicker tail that extends past their back flipper, in addition to a more evident claw on each of flipper, which is typically used for holding their position during mating.
Profits from the sale of our Honu Stickers help support sea turtle research at Florida Gulf Coast University, where undergraduate students work as interns at Cayo Costa State Park to monitor turtle nesting activity and hatchling success, and where graduate students conduct research on sea turtles to answer important questions that aid conservation efforts.