By Rebecca Hommon, Navy Region Hawaii Environmental Counsel
Many Hawaii residents believe in the concept of “aloha aina” — love of the land, which is marked by stewardship and reverence for the environment, attributing spiritual power to the Earth and its features as well as wildlife.
*While on rest and relaxation or during an operation, watch out for the highly endangered Hawaiian monk seal resting on beaches as well as turtles near coral or on the near shore. Both are endangered species and have the right of way. Don’t get near them even though others might do so. Take pictures with high-powered lenses.
*While snorkeling or diving, do not step on or hit coral with fins. Please watch where you put your feet. Coral is alive, and hitting it breaks and kills it.
*Exposing your bare skin to coral can result in painful cuts and possible infection.
*Hiking near or in freshwater streams has two invisible risks beyond the usual trip and fall: flash floods and catching a disease called leptospirosis due to wild animals (pigs mostly) that live in the uplands. Their feces contain bacteria that drains into the streams. The disease can cause severe nausea, chills, high fever which manifests seven to 14 days after exposure and, in worst cases, can be fatal.
Hikes that lead off usual trails can lead to a very narrow, steep path where turning around is impossible. Deaths have occurred when hikers lost their way or tried to take short cuts only to fall to their deaths. Don’t make a rescuer risk his or her life to come get you, based on your bad choice.
*Kayaking to, or landing on, several of the islands offshore of Oahu is illegal as they are bird sanctuaries and monk seal resting places. People are on shore watching with binoculars and will report the trespass. Authorities could be waiting upon your return to shore.
*Rip tides kill several every year as people swim off shore and get caught, then try to fight their way back. Swim parallel to the shore until the tide shifts, which could be a very long time.
*Jellyfish can be seen in the water and can cause burns as they tangle around feet or arms. Signs are usually posted when they are present. They usually arrive on the tides seven to 11 days after full moon.
*Portuguese man-of-war are present year-round, usually on windward (east-facing) beaches such as Bellows. Both stings can be extremely painful.
Reef fish are not good eating as they may contain a toxin (ciguatera) and are usually too small to be of much value. While no fishing license is needed to fish from shore in Hawaii, there are size minimums and catch limits for many kinds of fish. The best choice is to leave the fish in the sea and enjoy them while snorkeling rather than injuring and wasting them.