It was on Tuesday that Soulee Stroud, President of the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs (AOHCC), petitioned the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior to categorize the Hawaiian green sea turtle as a discrete population segment, which would allow it to be removed from the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The green sea turtle has been listed on the Endangered Species Act since 1978. Breeding populations of the turtle are endangered in Florida and the Pacific coast of Mexico.
Tagging studies show that the adults remain near the Hawaiian Islands. A DPS is the smallest division of a species included in the ESA. All Hawaiian green sea turtles nest in the Hawaiian archipelago, with most in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
To determine whether the DPS policy applies to the green turtle, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) conducted a review in 2015. As a result, the State of Hawaii can manage the species instead of the federal government if it is determined to be a DPS and then delisted.
AOHCC members have discussed the future management of the Hawaiian green sea turtle at their annual conferences since 2007. Stroud said it would be wonderful if the people of Hawaii managed this important cultural animal once again. In November of last year, the AOHCC passed a resolution to pursue the DPS status and delisting.
There has been a steady increase in nesting Hawaiian green turtle populations since the 1970s, and their numbers are estimated to be over 80 percent of their pre-exploitation levels.
One of the 20 ESA success stories, according to Kitty Simonds, is the recovery of this species. Aside from bald eagles and brown pelicans, the list also includes alligators, gray whales, Virginia northern flying squirrels, and peregrine falcons.
Based on their biology, ecology, natural history, and status, Hawaiian green turtles meet criteria to be designated a DPS, according to the AOHCC petition. To support the decision to delist Hawaiian populations under the ESA once they have been designated as a DPS, the petition discusses the factors for delisting species, as well as the best science and the most recent information available. For more information, visit www.aohcc.org.
There are 60 Hawaiian communities throughout the Hawaiian Islands and across the continental United States that are members of the AOHCC, which was established in 1918 by Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole.
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