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More on Hawaii, lights, and seabirds

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Wedge-tailed Shearwater on a nest. angrysunbird, Flickr
This article is copied from the most recent Birding Community E-bulletin




And now for a related seabird/collision report, this one from Hawaii.

In June and November 2010, we described a "shearwater gauntlet" impacting Newell's Shearwater, generally considered a subspecies of Townsend Shearwater, dealing with bright lights on Kauai in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands:

This was a new twist on the usual "lights out" effort to save birds, and it appeared to lead to adequate resolution.

Now, however, there is a larger Hawaiian lights-and-collision issue at stake. 

As revealed by Environment Hawaii, the Federal Government has warned the state of Hawaii that it should either enter a plea agreement with the Department of Justice (DOJ) or face criminal prosecution related to the deaths of large numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and other wildlife caused by the continued use of certain street lights that are attracting the wildlife and ultimately causing their deaths. (This also involved turtle and moth species protected under the Endangered Species Act, the ESA.).

A number of months ago, the DOJ notified the Hawaii Department of Transportation (DOT) of a multi-year investigation of DOT lights that are said to be causing the problem. 

While the DOJ has stated that the investigation is statewide, the focus is clearly on Oahu where a considerable number of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters have been reportedly killed or injured by street lights. About 100 dead and injured birds are found along one 10-mile stretch of local road on southeast Oahu each November and December.

According to media reports, since 2007 the DOT has required all new lighting projects to use full cutoff lens fixtures, which are supposed to help reduce light pollution. The DOT maintains that these shielded lights should protect certain seabirds that can become disoriented when flying.

The state has installed roughly 1,800 of these lights along roads and highways, but there are approximately 11,000 lights under DOT jurisdiction. "Fixing the lights is so easy," says David Hyrenbach, Assistant Professor of Oceanography at Hawaii Pacific University. But it also is expensive.

Regardless, if there are negotiations – for a plea bargain or for another resolution – all governmental parties are currently close-mouthed. 

Watch for more information in upcoming issues of the E-bulletin.




You can access all the past E-bulletins on the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) website:

If you have any friends or co-workers who want to get onto the monthly E-bulletin mailing list, have them contact either:
        Wayne R. Petersen, Director
         Massachusetts Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program
        Mass Audubon
        Paul J. Baicich
        Great Birding Projects  

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