© 2023 Hawaiʻi Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

NOAA wants your help to report turtle sightings across the islands

Honu with shell markings basking at Laniākea Beach on Oʻahu’s north shore. sea turtles
Camryn Allen
NOAA Fisheries
Honu with shell markings basking at Laniākea Beach on Oʻahu’s north shore.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has launched an online tool to report turtle sightings across the Hawaiian Islands.

When NOAA's Honu Count started in 2017, sightings were reported through phone calls and emails — but the public wanted a more efficient method.

Honu Count sea turtle
NOAA Fisheries
An example of an alphanumeric identifier on a honu that was originally identified nesting on Tern Island, according to the “T” etching. This is a female because Lalo/French Frigate Shoals male honu are also marked with an “M.”

Research marine biologist Camryn Allen said public sightings are vital to research because scientists aren’t always in the field.

"This data is going to be really helpful for us in understanding where turtles' favorite places are to haul out on land and to forage in the ocean. We know that data for the most part already, but we're hoping the public clue us in on places that we weren't aware of," Allen said.

"Perhaps there are certain locations that we didn't know were as important as others. And when any turtle comes into us with an injury, it also is rereleased with one of these numbers. So it's a great way to track how well the turtle is surviving," Allen told HPR.

If you see a honu with white alphanumeric characters on its shell, report it to NOAA through its Honu Count online survey. There have been over 600 reports since the citizen science project started.

The different letters indicate where the turtle was found. For example, turtles first found on Oʻahu have OA, while those on Kure Atoll (Hōlanikū) have KU.

Make sure to take a photo of the honu, but stay at least 10 feet away. You can find the survey online.

Zoe Dym is a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
Related Stories