Sea turtles are coming back to Hawaii.
In 1995, Uzee and I went to Maui for a week, snorkeled 3 or 4 days and saw tons of fish, squid, coral... but no turtles. I had seen them the previous year in the Caribbean, but the word was that they had largely disappeared from Hawaii due to hunting. In the '80s, they were still being served at restaurants (ugh) and were severely overhunted and depleted. But then they were put on the protected species list, though by the mid-'90s, as I say, I still wasn't seeing any.
Cut to 2008, and Uzee and I have been back in Maui for a week, snorkeling almost every day, and have seen sea turtles on three separate occasions. In fact I've seen turtles more often than not, which is a rather boggling concept to try to comprehend. This morning I went out at about 8am and saw no fewer than four within an hour. A foot-long baby, a couple mid-size models and one monster that I would guess at about four feet long. Pretty darn impressive...
The nice folks at the info station on the beach confirmed what my eyes were telling me: that yes, the turtles are making a comeback in the islands, and over the past several years their numbers have been steadily increasing. Or as the guy put it, "Go out at seven in the morning you'll see six, eight, ten of them out there. There's more every year." This is the best news I've heard in some time.
Definitely time to get an underwater camera, I think. (I wish I could claim credit for these photos, but no, they're just snatched off the net, from letsgohawaii.com. Sorry. I did, however, see the very thing pictured here: a big ol' turtle ascending to the surface to grab a gulp of air before descending again. It's fun to pop up out of the water at the same time s/he does to catch a glimpse of the face in the sunlight.)
These are, I believe, Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles, for you classification fiends out there.