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Hawai'i is the home to five species of sea turtles. Olive Ridleys, Loggerheads and Leatherbacks are usually only encountered in deep offshore waters. But it's common for snorkelers and divers on all the islands to see the Honu (green sea turtle) in near shore waters. Green sea turtles, however, nests in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, a remote, protected area where they thrive.
Hawaiian Hawksbill turtles 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. Due to their rarity, Hawksbills are watched over very carefully and are a primary subject for HWF's research projects.
Like other sea turtles, green sea turtles migrate long distances between feeding grounds and hatching beaches. Many islands worldwide are known as Turtle Island due to green sea turtles nesting on their beaches. Females crawl out on beaches, dig nests and lay eggs during the night. Later, hatchlings emerge and scramble into the water. Those that reach maturity may live to eighty years in the wild.
Sea turtles spend almost all their lives submerged, but must breathe air for the oxygen needed to meet the demands of vigorous activity. With a single explosive exhalation and rapid inhalation, sea turtles can quickly replace the air in their lungs. The lungs permit a rapid exchange of oxygen and prevent gases from being trapped during deep dives. Sea turtle blood can deliver oxygen efficiently to body tissues even at the pressures encountered during diving. During routine activity, green and loggerhead turtles dive for about four to five minutes, and surface to breathe for one to three seconds.
Turtles can rest or sleep underwater for several hours at a time, but submergence time is much shorter while diving for food or to escape predators. Breath-holding ability is affected by activity and stress, which is why turtles quickly drown in shrimp trawlers and other fishing gear.
In recent decades, sea turtles have moved from unrestricted exploitation to global protection, with individual countries providing additional protection, although serious threats remain unabated.