Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2021

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Environmental Studies


John van Buren


This paper addresses the anthropogenic factors that hinder the survival of the once-endangered Hawaiian Chelonia mydas population and the associated environmental degradation faced by the Hawaiian Islands. Chapter 1 introduces quantitative data on the decline and gradual recovery of the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas). By understanding the origin of the inhibition of the Hawaiian Chelonia mydas population growth and its correlation to the demise of coral reef health, the future viability of recreational fishing and ecotourism can be determined. This chapter studies the cultural significance of this species and evaluates the current stance on government support for the establishment of recovery and conservation efforts. Chapter 2 is founded on the chemistry of pelagic plastics and provides data on the negative presence of abiotic hindrances posed on the Hawaiian Chelonia mydas population and surrounding marine biota. This chapter investigates what plastics consist of, their inability to completely dissipate, and the chemical reactions that occur throughout its lifetime from its source to bioaccumulation in the tissues of marine species. With a definitive stance on the inner workings of the presence of plastics, it is then discussed how this material impairs the dietary and reproductive behaviors of Hawaiian Chelonia mydas. Chapter 3 is centered on marine ecology, gaining insights into the livelihoods of recovering Hawaiian Chelonia mydas populations. The effects of the ingestion of plastics, such as unnatural buoyancy, intestinal blockages, malnutrition, entanglements, and stranding are analyzed to attribute anthropogenic threats to inhibited growth rates. Chapter 4 discusses the conservation biology measures which have been taken so far to enable the recovery of the Hawaiian Chelonia mydas, as well as the extent to which such measures address the harmful effects of plastics pollution. Chapter 5 proposes policy recommendations to aid in the pursuit of the long-term ecological health of the Hawaiian Chelonia mydas and regulation of plastic pollution to preserve affected marine wildlife.