Pacific Green Sea Turtle (Photo Courtesy of Adam Sparks)

Pacific Green Sea Turtle (Photo Courtesy of Adam Sparks)

The gentle, lumbering Pacific Green Sea Turtle makes its home in Hawaiian waters.

These huge, endangered creatures, which can grow to 4 feet and weigh up to 400 pounds, feed on seaweed called limu that grows on the rocks in shallow areas.

Called honu in Hawaiian, the turtles are referred to as green not for the color of the algae growing on their backs, but for the color of their meat.

Yep, it’s green.

Since 1979, the turtles have been protected by the Endangered Species Act and it is against the law to harass them in any way, including touching.

It is believed that Green Sea Turtles can live up to 80 years and most don’t reach sexual maturity until they are about 25 years old, sometimes taking twice that long.

Turtles, like salmon, return to the place they were hatched to lay their eggs. Every second or third year, turtles migrate hundreds of miles to nest. Each female will lay two or three clutches of 100 to 110 eggs before swimming back to its favorite resting and feeding area in the protected waters of the inshore reef.

Paddling a kayak in Kailua Bay off Oahu is a good way to get up close without bothering these slow moving, mostly friendly creatures.

It is common to see green sea turtles in Oahu waters, but if you see one, be mindful that they are endangered creatures and protected by law.

If you come across a sea turtle when snorkeling, give it 10 to 15 feet of space and allow room for the animal to surface and breathe. It is against the law to approach, chase, surround, touch or swim with any protected marine mammal.

To report suspected violations, call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964.