Endangered turtle prevents thousands from visiting USS Arizona memorial

HONOLULU (KHON) — The National Park Service was forced to shut down the USS Arizona Memorial for 3 days due to an endangered turtle.

A green sea turtle was found eating along the dock of the memorial on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday last week which did not allow tour boats to dock.

Tevita Tufaga, who has worked as a tour guide for a private company for 25 years, says it’s the first closure he’s ever seen.

“I heard some of the guests say they traveled thousands of miles to get there, but they couldn’t get on the Arizona,” Tufaga said. “A lot came, spent thousands of dollars just for that.”

About 3,500 visitors were unable to visit the Arizona on those days.

All sea turtles are protected by state and federal law. Officials recommend people stay at least 150 feet away from a turtle.

Tufanga said these memorial closures are concerning.

“I’m worried for the guests,” Tufaga added. “That’s my job. I do that for a living. Without the guests, I don’t put food on the table.”

Tufaga wanted know if anything can be done to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

“It’s a dangerous zone if that’s the case,” Tufaga said. “Ships go in and out of that place. There should professionals come and remove and take them to a safer haven for them.”

The National Park Service says protecting the natural resources within the parks while providing enjoyment for the public is a challenge, and says in this case, it is illegal to threaten an endangered species.

A spokesperson with The National Park Service says a turtle sighting on the dock of the Arizona is unusual, but it’s found turtles near Gun Turret 3 on the Arizona Memorial and on Battleship Missouri.

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