Hawaii Marine Life


The Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife office provides a list of Endangered Species in the Pacific Islands

You will likely encounter a Hawaii monk seal napping on a beach in Kauai or spot a family of Honu feeding along the shoreline. Nene geese are commonly sighted in the Kilauea and Princeville area. Please respect Hawaii’s endangered wildlife and remember that these recovering species are protected by state and federal laws.

Honu – Green Sea Turtle
The Hawaiian green sea turtle is the most common sea turtle in Hawaiian waters. It feeds on marine plants in shallow coastal waters throughout the Islands. Green sea turtles are primarily vegetarian and eat limu (algae) growing underwater on coral reefs and rocks in shallow waters.

Honu’ Ea – Hawksbill Turtle. Hawaiian hawksbill turtles are extremely rare. They nest on the main Hawaiian islands, predominately on the Big Island of Hawai‘i, however, a few hawksbills and green sea turtles also nest on Maui each year.

DID YOU KNOW? Touching, feeding, riding, pursuing, harming or otherwise altering a turtle’s behavior is illegal.

Hawaiian monk seals – ‘ilio holo I ka uaua  “dog that runs in rough water”.
Hawaiian monk seals are endemic to the Hawaiian Islands and and are one of the most endangered animal species in the world. Only about 1,100 seals are left and their overall population is in decline. The Hawaiian monk seal is Hawaii’s official state mammal.

Should you come across a monk seal that has come ashore and has not yet been roped off in a seal protection zone please keep a distance of at least 150 feet (50 Yards) and refrain from making loud noises, using flash photography or making abrupt movements that could startle or stress the seal. his may cause them to react unpredictably, potentially harming themselves or you.  Disturbing seals on the beach interrupts their ability to perform critical functions such as molting, pupping/nursing, or resting.

DID YOU KNOW? Harassment or disturbance of a Hawaiian monk seal can incur fines exceeding $50,000 and up to 5 years imprisonment.

Nene Goose – Hawaii’s state bird. The Nene has endured a long struggle against extinction. There are small but stable populations of Nene on the islands of Hawai’i, Maui, and Kaua’i. Nene are threatened by introduced mongooses and feral dogs and cats which prey upon the Nene’s eggs and young. There are approximately 800 wild Nene in Hawai’i and the numbers are rising with each breeding season. Please do not feed the Nene!

Hawaii Ancient Sites and Legends

The Hawaiian Archipelago includes the uninhabited islands that extend about 1000 miles northwest of Kaua`i. They are a Federal Wildlife Refuge administered by the US. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is the single largest conservation area under the U.S. flag, and one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. It encompasses 139,797 square miles of the Pacific Ocean.

The extensive coral reefs are home to over 7,000 marine species, one quarter of which are found only in the Hawaiian Archipelago. Many of the islands and shallow water environments are important habitats for rare species such as the threatened green turtle and the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. On less than six square miles of land over 14 million seabirds representing 22 species breed and nest. Land areas also provide a home for four species of bird found nowhere else in the world, including the world’s most endangered duck, the Laysan duck.

Nai`a - Dolphins

Three species of dolphins are commonly seen in Hawaii’s near shore waters: spinner, bottlenose and spotted.

A Spinner dolphin is a small, long-beaked dolphin that can “spin” or revolve around its longitudinal axis as many as six times on one leap out of the water. They are found in resident pods around all of the main islands, resting in shallow bays in the day and hunting at night for small schooling fish.

Spotted dolphins look very similar to Spinner dolphins, however, the end of their “beak” is white-tipped and mature animals have a spotted color pattern on the body. They are usually seen in the channels between the islands and do not rest near shore. Both spotted and spinner dolphins travel in schools from small numbers up to hundreds.

Bottlenose dolphins are much larger with a uniformly gray coloration and a thicker, blunter “beak”. They are usually seen in smaller pods or groups of less than 10 individuals. Intelligent and high up on the oceanic food chain, dolphins are found to engage in playful activities including bow riding where they surf in front of a boat or even a whale’s bow wave.

Honu - Sea Turtles

Honu are beautiful, ancient and graceful creatures! It is a joy to encounter them while snorkeling on Kauai or spotting them along  the shoreline where they like to nibble on algae and sea grass, known as limu in Hawaiian.  Throughout the ages Honu have been symbols of wisdom, longevity and good luck. This is especially true in Hawaii, where many Islanders worship sea turtles as family guardians or ‘aumakua.’ To these families the turtle is not only a protector but also the embodiment of their ancestors.