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Anticipated Sea Turtle Nesting Sites to Close Overnight Camping at Bellows

Cpl. Jose Angeles/US Department of Defense
Endangered sea turtle nesting site area on Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Sept. 2020

Environmental scientists anticipate the return of Hawaiian green sea turtle, or honu, nesting sites at Bellows Field Beach Park this summer after documenting seven sites in 2020, the Marine Corps Base Hawai‘i and the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation announced.

To protect the endangered species, this popular overnight camping spot in Waimanalo will be closed from April 19 to at least September 2--the closure could be extended if further nesting sites are observed.

Weekend day-use and military training exercises will still be allowed outside of restricted areas, the department said. Once a nesting site is confirmed, the area around the nest will be closed off and signs will be posted.

“We recognize that the campground at Bellows is one of our largest and most popular camping areas on O‘ahu,” said Laura H. Thielen, director of DPR. “As a result of camping being suspended there for several months, we are exploring how to offer more camping opportunities at some of our other campgrounds.”

Last August, experts could not conclusively say why the mother turtles used the mile-long beach for the first time, but they suspected the nesting occurred because the beach was unusually empty due to state coronavirus restrictions.

Credit Courtesy video from Ms. Karen Bryan/US Department of Defense
A turtle hatchling is guided into the water by Marine Corps Base Hawaii Environmental Compliance and Protection Division staff at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Aug. 6, 2020.

“The arrival of turtles at Bellows last year was truly unprecedented for us,” said Lt. Col. Tim Pochop, Marine Corps Base Hawai‘i’s Environmental Division Director. “This year we are being proactive in providing an area for these turtles to nest and hatch, which means limiting nighttime activities."

MCBH said it will implement a beach monitoring program to identify sea turtle nesting activity along Bellows Beach.

"Please let us know if you see anything on the beach so we can include it in our program. We are serious about our environmental stewardship and safeguarding these protected turtles," he said.

Officials said they have documented several activities at Bellows that threaten the safety of the nesting turtles, such as illegal beach off-roading, camping fires, dogs, illegal trash dumping, and the presence of artificial lighting.

The department and MCBH encouraged the public to report any disturbing or illegal behavior against the turtles or nests by calling (808) 285-9529 or (808) 257-2123.

Sophia McCullough is a digital news producer. Contact her at news@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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