Conservationists have successfully saved this species from extinction, but it hasn't been easy. Sea turtles evolved millions of years ago and when Columbus explored the Caribbean, he saw so many that he named three islands Las Tortugas. He believed the turtles were the most valuable reptiles in the world, and soon they were almost exterminated for their shells, food, and flesh.
The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, Honu, is protected under the Endangered Species Act. Turtles were a source of food, tools, and ornamentation for early Hawaiians, but the western culture increased harvesting until the State of Hawaii finally passed a law naming them a threatened species.
In other parts of the world, green turtles face a serious threat from destruction of their nesting sites, but fortunately most breeding of Hawaiian turtles occurs in federally protected shoals 400 miles north of the Islands. But it's a slow process. Their eggs are laid every 2-3 years, and the current population is still below pre-World War II levels.
We found the sea turtles at almost every Kona beach, especially less populated ones if we were patient and observant. They seem to enjoy foraging green seaweed and are very s-l-o-w to move around. When the water is clear you can swim along with them as long as you don't touch, chase, or scare them. It's the State law with a $100,000 fine!