Hawaii adds patrols to end tourist harassment of sea turtles

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii state officials say a surge in tourists is leading to increased harassment of sea turtles on a popular North Shore Oahu beach.

Hoards of people are crowding turtles at Laniakea Beach Park, known as Turtle Beach, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Friday.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources said increased patrols are being dispatched to enforce laws against approaching the turtles.

“(T)here are packs of 200 people at a time, throughout the day,” said Debbie Herrera, volunteer and education coordinator for turtle conservation group Malama na Honu.

The state Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement has assigned officers to Laniakea.

“Typically, if there’s a uniformed officer standing on the beach, people are not going to break the law in front of them,” said Jason Redulla, division chief.

Harassment of turtles and endangered Hawaiian monk seals led Gov. David Ige to warn that violators will be prosecuted if caught.

Tourists at Laniakea Beach tell Malama na Honu they didn’t know touching turtles was illegal, Herrera said.

Most followed the rules once informed, but there were a “very few who refuse, despite dozens of cautionary signs or warnings from volunteers, to give green sea turtles on the beach or in the ocean wide berth,” she said.