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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 47:109-118 (2022)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01167

Three decades of stranding data reveal insights into endangered hawksbill sea turtles in Hawai‘i

Shandell Brunson1, Alexander R. Gaos1,*, Irene K. Kelly2, Kyle S. Van Houtan3, Yonat Swimmer4, Stacy Hargrove5, George H. Balazs6, Thierry M. Work7, T. Todd Jones4

1NOAA Fisheries, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Marine Turtle Biology and Assessment Program, 1845 Wasp Boulevard, Building 176, Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96818, USA
2NOAA Fisheries, Pacific Islands Regional Office, 1845 Wasp Boulevard, Building 176, Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96818, USA
3Duke University, Nicholas School of the Environment, Box 90328, Durham, North Carolina 27708, USA
4NOAA Fisheries, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Fisheries Resources and Monitoring Division, 1845 Wasp Boulevard, Building 176, Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96818, USA
5NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Office of Protected Resources, Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Conservation Division, 75 Virginia Beach Drive, Miami, Florida 33149, USA
6Golden Honu Services of Oceania, 992 Awa’awa’anoa Place, Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96825, USA
7US Geological Survey, National Wildlife Health Center, Honolulu Field Station, 300 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 5-231, Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96850, USA
*Corresponding author:
This article is dedicated to the memory of the lead author, Shandell Brunson, who passed away unexpectedly shortly before publication. She will be dearly missed by her family, friends, and co-workers

ABSTRACT: Hawksbill sea turtles Eretmochelys imbricata inhabiting the Hawaiian Islands are extremely rare and listed as endangered under the US Endangered Species Act. The paucity of data on basic hawksbill ecology continues to hinder effective management of the species. We analyzed stranding data collected between 1984 and 2018 to gain insights into the distribution, demography, and conservation challenges facing hawksbills in Hawai‘i. In doing so, we present a comprehensive description of the population across developmental stages and rank threats that may be impeding their successful recovery. Over the >30 yr data set, we recorded a total of only 111 juvenile and adult hawksbill stranding events. Interactions with nearshore recreational fishing gear were documented for a large proportion (48.6%) of stranding events in the Hawaiian Islands, identifying this as the primary management challenge for the species. Stranding events were biased towards females (female to male sex ratio of 4.8:1.0), which may be indicative of the population as a whole. Even though the majority of hawksbills nest on the islands of Hawai‘i Moloka‘i, and Maui, the greatest number of juvenile to adult strandings was found to be on the island of Oahu (n = 47). Temporal distribution of the majority of adult hawksbill strandings (72.2%) occurred during a 4 mo period between June and September. We discuss these and other findings that help identify future research and conservation efforts to mitigate anthropogenic threats in Hawai‘i for this enigmatic population.


KEY WORDS: Eretmochelys imbricata · Protected species · Threat assessment · Population monitoring · Coastal fisheries · Sex ratios · Hawai‘i


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Cite this article as: Brunson S, Gaos AR, Kelly IK, Van Houtan KS and others (2022) Three decades of stranding data reveal insights into endangered hawksbill sea turtles in Hawai‘i. Endang Species Res 47:109-118. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01167

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