During our field projects, we’ve encountered four different species of sea turtles, out of the five total species that can be found in Hawaiian waters (all except Loggerhead Sea Turtles). Almost every sea turtle we’ve seen has been a Green Sea Turtle, but we’ve been able to get photographs of three other species over the last 20 years.
Hawksbill Sea Turtles
We’ve only seen Hawksbill Sea Turtles twice in all of our time offshore, both off the island of Hawai‘i. Both of the individuals were juveniles and sightings in offshore waters are so rare that both of ours were included in a publication on this species in Hawai‘i. The individual above was seen in May 2011.
A Hawksbill Sea Turtle seen off the island of Hawai‘i in November 2015.
Olive Ridley Sea Turtles
We’ve only seen Olive Ridley Sea Turtles three times in the last 20 years, all in depths of 1,000 m or greater – first in October 2011, then in July 2014, and most recently in October 2018, all off the island of Hawai‘i. This Olive Ridley Sea Turtle was seen off the island of Hawai‘i in October 2011.
The most recent Olive Ridley Sea Turtle sighting we’ve had was off the island of Hawai‘i in October 2018.
Leatherback Sea Turtles
We’ve only seen a Leatherback Sea Turtle once, a single individual off the island of Hawai‘i in April 2008.
Green Sea Turtles
Green Sea Turtles are commonly seen in nearshore waters throughout the Hawaiian Islands, and we rarely see them more than a mile or so from shore.
For more information on Hawaiian sea turtles, see the following publication and links:
- Van Houtan, K.S., D.L. Francke, S. Alessi, T.T. Jones, S.L. Martin, L. Kurpita, C.S. King and R.W. Baird. 2016. The developmental biogeography of hawksbill sea turtles in the North Pacific. Ecology and Evolution doi: 10.1002/ece3.2034 Download PDF
- Sea Turtles in the Pacific – NOAA Fisheries
- Hawaiian Sea Turtles – Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund
Updated September 2019