The extraordinary remoteness of the Hawaiian Islands has given rise to unique life that can be found nowhere else on the planet. The native wildlife is under constant threat from a variety of sources (both natural and manmade). Knowing how best to enjoy all that Hawai‘i has to offer while staying ecologically sensitive is important in preserving it for everyone, present and future.
- Unless at a petting zoo where it’s encouraged, do not feed any animals. This includes fish, turtles, dolphins, birds, sharks (try to resist their toothy charms), centipedes (you’ll thank us for that one), mosquitoes (on second thought pet them all you want) and pretty much anything that swims, crawls or flies. Feeding animals upsets the balance of life. (As far as we know, fish don’t eat Doritos in the wild.) When they are full of corn and yellow dye #5, they don’t eat what they normally would and over time, this sets off a chain reaction in the ecosystem with disastrous results. All animals should be considered wild and potentially dangerous.
- Do not take any coral, rocks, seashells or live creatures. Even broken pieces of coral can still be alive. It is illegal to take coral and also damages the reefs.
- This is a big one—do not walk on coral reefs. Coral is a colony of many organisms and damaging even a small part of it can cause a whole colony to die.
- Give creatures plenty of space. Dolphins and monk seals should be given at least 150 feet of distance. Sea turtles should have around 10 feet and humpback whales must be given at least 300 feet. These critters can be curious too, so if any of these animals approach you in the water, swim slowly and calmly, giving them space to move around you.
- Hawaiian monk seals are found nowhere else in the world and are endangered. If you see one resting on the beach, please report it to NOAA Fisheries Service at 808-220-7802. This helps with keeping track of how well they are reestablishing their numbers. Do not disturb the seals at all. How would you feel if someone woke you up from a sound sleep after you’ve been partying with those crazy tunas all night? Now imagine you have large teeth… ’Nuff said.
- If you see turtle, whale, dolphin or seal tangled in fishing line or netting, do not try to free it. Call 888-256-9840 and the NOAA animal rescue squad will respond.
- Consider purchasing a “reef safe” sunscreen. A number of chemicals in many sunscreens have been shown to damage coral. Aerosol or spray on sunscreens seem to be the worst offenders due to how easily they wash off in the water. In general, mineral based sunscreens, with zinc oxide as the main ingredient, are considered the most ecologically friendly. You can even find some clear types that don’t give you the classic, white-nosed lifeguard look.
- Non-native plants love the climate here and are a constant threat to the few areas that still have a majority of native plants. Turns out people and pets are great at unwittingly transporting seeds to new areas. After a hike, it is a good idea to brush off your shoes before you get into your car to make sure no hitchhiking seeds have stowed away in your shoelaces.