Interior’s Secretary Jewell Announces New Wildlife and Climate Studies at the Pacific Islands Climate Science Center

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced today that Interior’s Pacific Islands Climate Science Center is awarding more than $700,000 to universities and other partners for research to guide managers of parks, refuges and other cultural and natural resources in planning how to help species and ecosystems adapt to climate change.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell

“Even as we take new steps to cut carbon pollution, we must also prepare for the impacts of a changing climate that are already being felt across the country,” said Secretary Jewell. “These new studies, and others that are ongoing, will help provide valuable, unbiased science that land managers and others need to identify tools and strategies to foster resilience in resources across landscapes in the face of climate change.”

The six funded studies will focus on how climate change will affect natural resources and management actions that can be taken to help offset such change. They include:

Assessing the vulnerability of species to climate change in Hawai`i and other Pacific Island ecosystems by expanding and improving a novel model to identify which plants are vulnerable most to continuing change. This model, developed by federal, state and non-profit organizations, will allow project leads to respond to the needs of resource managers for such species vulnerability assessment to help inform adaptation decisions regionally and locally for some nearly 2000 plant species, and to prioritize their conservation actions.

Understanding how native and non-native Hawaiian forests will respond to climate change to help resource managers plan for and make effective adaptation and other decisions to slow the spread of invasive species and to keep Hawai`i’s native ecosystems, streams and forests healthy.

Assessing coral reef vulnerability in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in the western Pacific. Climate change poses the single greatest long-term threat to coral reefs and is expected to result in more frequent severe tropical storms and more frequent and severe coral bleaching events. Coral reefs are additionally stressed by human activities, including coastal development and overfishing. This project will assess the resilience potential of coral reefs in the Commonwealth; results will help managers target actions that support and build reef resilience.

Developing a pilot decision-support tool for coral reef management that can map, assess, value and simulate changes in ecosystem services under alternative climate scenarios and adaptation strategies. Ecosystem services are the benefits that people receive from ecosystems such as coral reefs, which provide recreation and food among other benefits. This tool will help decision makers understand the social and economic tradeoffs of their management and adaptation decisions.

Preparing for the impacts of climate change on Pacific Island coral reefs. The research team will use a system of models that will ultimately identify reef areas that are either vulnerable or resilient to the many stressors that the future may hold. Such models can identify areas that might benefit from management actions to minimize local stressors such as land-based pollution, and it will directly provide scientific knowledge to aid in planning for adaptation to climate change.

Providing the best possible projections of future climate change at a regional scale for the islands of Kaui`i and O`ahu. Although the Pacific Islands are notable in their vulnerability to climate change, they have received considerably less attention than more populated areas in climate models. This project will fill that gap in providing downscaled models that will be provided to resource managers for helping them make more effective planning and management decisions.

In Hawai`i and the Pacific Islands, changing climate already is a reality for urban and rural communities, cultural life ways and sites, watersheds, ecosystems and hundreds of imperiled species in this vast oceanic domain of island, atoll and marine ecosystems. “It is vital that we work on climate change effects now to better prepare our communities, ecosystems and species for the future,” said David Helweg, director of Interior’s Pacific Islands Climate Science Center. “These studies are designed for the people who need them: managers, policy makers, and community leaders already grappling with the effects of climate change.”

Each of the Department of the Interior’s eight Climate Science Centers worked with states, tribes, community leaders, federal agencies, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, universities supporting the CSCs and other regional partners to identify the highest priority management challenges in need of scientific input, and to solicit and select research projects.

The studies will be undertaken by teams of scientists and students from the universities that comprise the Pacific Islands CSC, from USGS science centers, and from other partners such as the State and the U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, USDA Forest Service and the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives in the region.

The eight DOI Climate Science Centers form a national network and are coordinated by the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center,located at the headquarters of Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey. CSCs and LCCs have been created under Interior’s strategy to address the impacts of climate change on America’s waters, land, and other natural and cultural resources. Together, Interior’s CSCs and LCCs will assess the impacts of climate change and other landscape-scale stressors that typically extend beyond the borders of any single national wildlife refuge, national park or Bureau of Land Management unit and will identify strategies to ensure that resources across landscapes are resilient in the face of climate change.

The Pacific Islands Climate Science Center is hosted by the University of Hawai`i, Manoa, along with the University of Hawai`i, Hilo, and the University of Guam.

2013-2014 Coral Reef Resilience to Climate Change in CNMI; Field-based Assessments and Implications for Vulnerability and Future Management Laurie Raymundo (Marine Laboratory, University of Guam)
Jeffrey Mayndar (UNCW Center for Marine Science)
2013-2015 Expanding a Dynamic Model of Species Vulnerability to Climate Change for Hawai`i and Other Pacific Island Ecosystems Lucas Fortini (Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center (PIERC))
2013-2015 Future Coral Reef Community Projections of DOI-Managed Coastal Assets in the Hawaiian Islands Erik Franklin (University of Hawai`i at Manoa)
2013-2015 Understanding the Response of Native and Non‐native Forests to Climate Variability and Change to Support Resource Management in Hawai`i Thomas Giambelluca (University of Hawai`i at Manoa)
2013-2016 Valuing Climate Change Impacts on Coral Reef Ecosystem Services (Aloha InVest) Kirsten Oleson (University of Hawai`i at Manoa)
2013-2015 Very Fine Resolution Dynamical Downscaling of Past and Future Climates for Assessment of Climate Change Impacts on the Islands of O`ahu and Kaua`i Yuqing Wang (University of Hawai`i at Manoa)

 

Federal Officials Conduct Water Sampling Tests on Molasses Spill in Honolulu Harbor

Representatives from the Coast Guard National Strike Force, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration conducted water sampling as part of a joint effort to analyze the effects of the molasses spill in Honolulu Harbor Sunday.

Crewmembers from the Coast Guard National Strike Force head to their first location to use a water quality instrument used to monitor depleted oxygen and pH levels in Honolulu Harbor, Honolulu, Sept. 15, 2013. Personnel from the Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tested the water at various locations around Honolulu Harbor affected by the molasses spill. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Tara Molle)

Crewmembers from the Coast Guard National Strike Force head to their first location to use a water quality instrument used to monitor depleted oxygen and pH levels in Honolulu Harbor, Honolulu, Sept. 15, 2013. Personnel from the Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tested the water at various locations around Honolulu Harbor affected by the molasses spill. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Tara Molle)

The combined team departed Coast Guard Station Honolulu Sunday morning aboard a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium. The National Strike Force crewmembers from the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific Strike Teams used a water quality instrument to monitor depleted oxygen and pH levels at various locations around the harbor that were affected by the spill.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class James Moore with the National Strike Force Atlantic Strike Team, prepares a water quality instrument used to monitor depleted oxygen and pH levels in the Honolulu Harbor, Honolulu, Sept. 15, 2013. Personnel from the Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tested the water at various locations around Honolulu Harbor affected by the molasses spill. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Tara Molle)

Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class James Moore with the National Strike Force Atlantic Strike Team, prepares a water quality instrument used to monitor depleted oxygen and pH levels in the Honolulu Harbor, Honolulu, Sept. 15, 2013. Personnel from the Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tested the water at various locations around Honolulu Harbor affected by the molasses spill. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Tara Molle)

The National Strike Force provides highly trained, experienced personnel and specialized equipment to Coast Guard and other federal agencies to facilitate preparedness for and response to oil and hazardous substance pollution incidents in order to protect public health and the environment. The National Strike Force’s area of responsibility covers all Coast Guard Districts and Federal Response Regions.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class James Moore with the National Strike Force Atlantic Strike Team, handles a water quality instrument used to monitor depleted oxygen and pH levels in the Honolulu Harbor, Honolulu, Sept. 15, 2013. Personnel from the Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tested the water at various locations around Honolulu Harbor affected by the molasses spill. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Tara Molle)

Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class James Moore with the National Strike Force Atlantic Strike Team, handles a water quality instrument used to monitor depleted oxygen and pH levels in the Honolulu Harbor, Honolulu, Sept. 15, 2013. Personnel from the Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tested the water at various locations around Honolulu Harbor affected by the molasses spill. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Tara Molle)

The National Strike Force team members arrived in Honolulu Saturday after Coast Guard Sector Honolulu received an official request from the Hawaii Department of Health to assist with the response to the molasses spill in Honolulu Harbor, Friday.

The Coast Guard began supporting the response Monday morning when investigators from Sector Honolulu responded to a report of discolored water in the harbor. Since then, the Coast Guard has held daily meetings with the lead State agency, Hawaii Department of Health. Crews from Station Honolulu have conducted daily patrols in the affected area since Monday.

Crewmembers from the Coast Guard National Strike Force discuss data from a water quality instrument used to monitor depleted oxygen and pH levels with a member of the state of Hawaii Department of Health in Honolulu Harbor, Honolulu Sept. 15, 2013. Personnel from the Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tested the water at various locations around Honolulu Harbor affected by the molasses spill. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Tara Molle)

Crewmembers from the Coast Guard National Strike Force discuss data from a water quality instrument used to monitor depleted oxygen and pH levels with a member of the state of Hawaii Department of Health in Honolulu Harbor, Honolulu Sept. 15, 2013. Personnel from the Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tested the water at various locations around Honolulu Harbor affected by the molasses spill. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Tara Molle)

The request for federal assistance allows the Coast Guard to support the lead agency with a wide variety of resources to include specialized response personnel, boats and equipment from the Coast Guard and other Federal Agencies.

For more information contact the Sector Honolulu public affairs officer, Lt. Kevin Cooper at (808) 286-4675 or the Department of Health Public Information Officer, Janice Okubo at (808) 586-4442.

Coast Guard Supports State of Hawaii’s Response to Honolulu Harbor Molasses Spill

Coast Guard Sector Honolulu received an official request from the Hawaii Department of Health to assist with the response to the molasses spill in Honolulu Harbor Friday.

Molasses Sharks

“The Coast Guard is prepared to bring all the requested resources to this incident to support our state and local partner agencies” said Capt. Shannon Gilreath, captain of the port Honolulu. “We have been working closely with state partners since the spill occurred to offer advice and resources. This official request is the next step in our joint response to this incident.”

The Coast Guard began supporting the response Monday morning when investigators from Sector Honolulu responded to a report of discolored water in the harbor. Since then, the Coast Guard has held daily meetings with the lead State agency, Hawaii Department of Health. Crews from Station Honolulu have conducted daily patrols in the affected area since Monday.

The request for federal assistance allows the Coast Guard to support the lead agency with a wide variety of resources to include specialized response personnel, boats and equipment from the Coast Guard and other Federal Agencies. The captain of the port requested support from the Coast Guard’s National Strike Force for water sampling and monitoring and is currently coordinating with technical specialists from the EPA to help assess additional response mitigation strategies.

The Hawaii Department of Health remains the lead agency for the response. Other agencies involved include the Hawaii Department of Transportation Harbor Police, Hawaii Health Department Clean Water Branch, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources, Clean Islands Council and the Hawaii Wildlife Center.

For more information contact the Sector Honolulu public affairs officer, Lt. Kevin Cooper at (808) 286-4675 or the Department of Health Public Information Officer, Janice Okubo at (808) 586-4442.

 

DLNR, NOAA Request Assistance From Boaters To Report Dead Floating Whales

To Report Dead Floating Whales Notify USCG channel 16 or NOAA Marine Mammal Hotline at: 1-888-256-9840

Each year, approximately one to four sperm whale carcasses drift ashore in Hawaii, particularly in May and August. The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) are asking boaters to notify authorities immediately if they see a dead whale floating at sea.

This whale washed up on the Puna Coastline last year.

This whale washed up on the Puna Coastline last year.

Data also suggests they are coming in to Hawaiian waters from east and north directions, which results in most carcasses landing on the windward side of islands.

“Early reporting allows us to locate, then tow a floating carcass away from the islands,” said David Schofield, NOAA’s Regional Marine Mammal Health and Response Program manager.  “This is often much easier and less expensive than removing it once it comes aground on a shoreline or reef.”

“It is critical that we do our best to keep these whales out at sea to avoid attracting large tiger sharks close to shore,” said William J. Aila, Jr., DLNR chairperson.

“Fishing is also good around these carcasses, and by notifying DLNR and NOAA early we can take the necessary steps to tow the carcass back out to sea, which can extend these opportunities and benefit public safety,” added Aila.

“We know that sperm whales are the deepest diving and one of the largest ranging of all cetaceans, but we still don’t know why we see these stranding peaks in the summer,” said Schofield.  “It could have something to do with migration patterns, but scientists still have a lot to learn.”

“Although summer is peak season for sperm whale carcasses, other large whale carcasses, like humpbacks, make their way to shore throughout the year,” added Aila.

To report a floating whale or any marine mammal incident, call USCG channel 16 or the NOAA marine mammal hotline at: 1-888-256-9840.

Large Floating Container Spotted off Oahu

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is asking for the public’s help to locate a large item of marine debris that may be floating in the ocean off the windward Oahu coast and could approach land over the holiday weekend.

Photo Courtesy of DLNR

Photo Courtesy of DLNR

What appears to be a large container, possibly made of metal, is approximately 20 feet long by 8 feet wide, 8 feet high and painted light blue. There is a small, square framed hole in the middle of its top surface that appears open and visible from a distance. About 6 to 8 feet of the object are above water. Its origin and contents are unknown at this time.

DLNR is working closely with its agency partners on the Hawaii Interagency Marine Debris Working Group, including the NOAA Marine Debris Program, U.S. Coast Guard, City and County of Honolulu Emergency Management, and others.

“We are asking people to immediately contact us with latitude and longitude (GPS) position and date and time of sighting, because we want to be able to take control of this large object before it can cause damage to a reef or introduce invasive species,” said William J. Aila, Jr., DLNR chairperson.

 

Carbon Dioxide in Atmosphere DID NOT Break 400 Parts Per Million Last Week!

Carbon dioxide measurements in the Earth’s atmosphere did not top 400 parts per million as reported by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

“On May 9, the daily mean concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Mauna Loa, Hawaii, surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time since measurements began in 1958. Independent measurements made by both NOAA and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have been approaching this level during the past week. It marks an important milestone because Mauna Loa, as the oldest continuous carbon dioxide (CO2) measurement station in the world, is the primary global benchmark site for monitoring the increase of this potent heat-trapping gas….

This is simply not true.  Here is the revised data and you can see that on May 9th it did not go over 400 PPM:

Climate Change BS

Source: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/weekly.html

State Awards Grants to Six Local Non-Profits to Address Japan Tsunami Marine Debris

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) with assistance from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is awarding six local non-profit, community groups grant funds to help address Japan Tsunami Marine Debris (JTMD) and keep Hawaii’s shorelines clean. The focus is on potential debris originating from the tsunami that devastated Japan in March 2011.

Beach Clean Ups

“The six grants totaling $100,000 complement ongoing efforts by community groups that are already working to address marine debris, including debris originating from the Japan tsunami,” said Gary Gill, deputy director of the DOH Environmental Health Administration. “For years Hawaii has depended on volunteers to keep marine debris off our beaches. Today, we are providing a little support for the very big job they do.”

The selected projects will help to reduce the impacts of marine debris from alien species, marine life entanglement, economic costs, and human health and safety.

The awardees are:

  • Surfrider Kauai, $25,000 (for Kauai County)
  • Hawaii Wildlife Fund, $20,000 (for Maui County)
  • Recycle Hawaii, $20,000 (for Hawaii County)
  • Surfrider Oahu, $13,000 (for Honolulu County)
  • Kupu, $11,000 (for Honolulu County)
  • Sustainable Coastlines, $11,000 (for Honolulu County)

The grant funds, which will be administered by the DOH, were provided by a $50,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program and another $50,000 of matching funds contributed by DLNR. Selected proposals will reduce marine debris through beach cleanup and education activities that support ongoing habitat conservation in Hawaii coastal areas. Awardees and projects are located within the Kauai, Maui, Hawaii and Honolulu Counties with a focus on areas that typically receive the most marine debris. A map of these areas is available at www.hawaii.gov/health/epo. Project selection was based in part on confirmed JTMD items and areas known to accumulate the most marine debris.

 
To date, there have been eight confirmed JTMD items in Hawaii and more than 1,700 reports of potential JTMD in the United States and Canada. The public is urged to report findings of potential JTMD to DLNR at (808) 587-0400 or dlnr.marine.debris@hawaii.gov, and to NOAA at disasterdebris@noaa.gov.
 
For guidance on “what to do if you see debris in Hawaii’s ocean or beaches” go to: http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/JTMD-Guideline3.pdf .
 
For the latest information on JTMD, please visit the DLNR Marine debris website at http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/marine-debris/ or the NOAA Marine Debris Program website at http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/tsunamidebris/.

Translocation of Hawaiian Monk Seals From the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to the Main Islands, Deferred

The Hawaiian monk seal research program permit application for conducting activities implementing the monk seal recovery program was published yesterday in the Federal Register.

Monk Seal Institute

The application has deferred for up to 5 years, the proposed translocation of juvenile monk seals from the NWHI to the main islands; the permit application specifically states “no seals would be moved from the NWHI to the MHI.” The merits of the translocation proposal have been debated for the last several years among marine scientists, ocean users and conservationists. (See: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/permits/monkseal16632.htm).

According to Trisha Kehaulani Watson, who represents the Marine Conservation Institute in Hawai‘i, the deferral was the appropriate move at this time but should be reconsidered for future permit applications based on the seal’s recovery progress over the next five years:

“Translocation of a few seals to the main islands, and then returning them to the NWHI as adults, was something NMFS wanted to try as an experiment to see if it could build up the subpopulation of seals in the NWHI which is currently declining.  It was a novel idea, and not everyone agreed it would work. But NMFS deserves credit for considering it as one measure to maintain the monk seal as part of Hawai‘i’s ‘ohana.  Translocations of individual seals within the main islands are allowed under the permit application, and we support these as necessary to protect their important role in Hawai‘i’s ecology and culture.  Moving seals within the MHI to appropriate locations where they can thrive will be an increasingly important tool as the population of monk seals continues to naturally increase in the main islands.”

“Frankly,” said Watson, “the Hawai‘i office of NMFS is in no position to finance an expensive translocation project right now because the agency’s budget for the monk seal recovery program has been cut by NOAA’s managers from around $5. 5 million in 2010 to roughly $3.5 million in 2012, and further cuts may be in the offing.  NMFS Hawai‘i cannot even pay for things it should be doing now like mounting effective outreach and volunteer programs, responding to the growing number of harmful human actions toward monk seals, and financing its scientific research projects, including its summer research camp in the NWHI.  The focus of the limited funds available needs to be on activities in Papahānaumokuākea and on managing the seal population currently in the main Hawaiian Islands.”

“If the people of Hawai‘i and across the United States want to see the monk seal properly managed and recovered,” she said, “they are going to have to ask their congressional delegation to intervene on the NOAA budget when it comes before the Congress this spring.” Watson noted that 30% of the seals seen alive today are alive because of interventions made by seal managers in Hawai‘i. “That’s a terrific record achieved by NMFS,” she said.

See our Monk Seal Fact Sheet for further information.

About Marine Conservation Institute

Marine Conservation Institute is a U.S. nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting marine ecosystems. We work with scientists, politicians, government officials and other organizations in the United States and around the world to fashion solutions to problems affecting marine ecosystems which are long lasting and compatible with sustainable ocean use. Honua Consulting represents Marine Conservation Institute in Hawai`i.

 

Latest Monk Seal Death Increases Concern of Fishery Impacts

First Monk Seal Death of 2013 Could Have Been Prevented with Earlier Reporting

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) this morning reported that a juvenile monk seal flown by the U.S. Coast Guard from Hawai‘i Island to O‘ahu last Friday for medical treatment has died. A necropsy conducted by NOAA Fisheries revealed that the young male seal, known by his ID tags as RK68, suffered fractured ribs earlier in life, but ingestion of a fishing hook more recently is believed to be the cause of death.

Monk Seal Hook

Results of the necropsy reveal that the seal may have been hooked for several weeks or months. Officials believe had they received a detailed report of the hooking incident when it occurred, the chances of a life-saving response could have been much greater.

“Early reporting of a monk seal hooking can possibly mean the difference between life and death for one of these critically endangered animals,” said DLNR Chairperson William J. Aila, Jr. “We rely on the community to be active and mindful stewards of our oceans. Had someone come forward, even anonymously, to report this hooking when it occurred, we may have been able to save his life.”

NOAA Permit 932-1905 K68 @ WAq 02-01-2013-1

NOAA Permit 932-1905 K68 @ WAq 02-01-2013-1

This was the first monk seal death of 2013 and the first from Hawai‘i Island according to available data. Hawai‘i Island Mayor Billy Kenoi has promised increased support from the County.

“We are sad to learn that Hawai‘i Island has had its first monk seal death resulting from a hooking,” Mayor Kenoi said. “We will be encouraging everyone to report any injured or distressed seals to DLNR, and the County will be adding more informational materials in all our parks to help alert residents and visitors to this situation.”

NOAA-Permit-932-1905-K68-@-WAq-02-01-2013-2

NOAA-Permit-932-1905-K68-@-WAq-02-01-2013-2

“Many people today use the term ‘kuleana,’ but we all must remember that kuleana is not just about our rights, it is also about our responsibilities. Our community has a responsibility to help manage and care for Hawaiian monk seals,” Aila added. “Hooking a monk seal is often preventable, but we know sometimes things happen beyond a fisherman’s control. However, reporting is almost always within our control, and when someone observes a hooking and doesn’t call it in, it means an unfortunate incident can go from bad to worse, and become fatal for the seal. We have an opportunity at this time to find solutions that will work for both the seals and the fishermen.”one of which resulted in deaths. There were 15 hookings reported in 2012, resulting in three deaths. This incident marks the first seal death of 2013. Another seal was reported with a hook in its tongue Monday (Feb. 4) afternoon on Kaua‘i. DLNR and NOAA Fisheries considers these numbers concerning.

“It is certainly discouraging to see the number of hookings continue to increase, but it is alarming when monk seals lives are needlessly put at greater risk because people fail to report hookings as they occur,” noted Charles Littnan, Lead Scientist with NOAA’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Program. “We remain strongly committed to studying monk seal behavior so we can find means of mitigating these interactions, but we depend on community members to provide us information on interactions. The more we receive public reportings of hookings and other interactions, the quicker we will be able develop solutions for mitigating these situations.”

The toll-free, 24/7 reporting hotline for all fishery interactions and other marine mammal incidents is

1-888-256-9840. DLNR and NOAA Fisheries urge all fishermen and other ocean users to write down this hotline and/or save it in their mobile phones for timely use whenever a seal is hooked or entangled.

Oahu Public Shoreline Access Information Now Available Online

Residents and visitors alike enjoy the shorelines of Oahu for a wide range of recreational activities such as fishing, swimming, surfing, and snorkeling. But historically, public access to shoreline locations has not always been obvious.

The State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Office of Planning have worked collaboratively with the City and County of Honolulu and NOAA Fisheries to review and update information defining Oahu’s public access.

“This project demonstrates how we can improve public access to coastal resources when federal, state, and county agencies combine their talents and resources toward a common goal,” said William J. Aila, Jr. DLNR chairperson.

Click to see shoreline access spots on Oahu

Click to see shoreline access spots on Oahu

Public access points can now be found on a new easy-to-use map-based website that shows locations all around Oahu that can be clicked on and zoomed to show specific location name, and other information. Go to City and County of Honolulu Shoreline Access Points (and map) at http://bit.ly/QUz56q

“This comprehensive list and map of public shoreline access points are valuable resources for local fishermen, residents, and visitors,” said Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle. “This is an excellent example of multiple government agencies working together to develop easily accessible information that benefits all.”

The city Department of Planning and Permitting along with the state Office of Planning will coordinate with other relevant agencies to keep the information up-to-date.

 

Boat Recovered From Kahana Bay Shoreline Could Be Japan Tsunami Marine Debris

An open boat recovered from the shoreline of Kahana Bay, Oahu, may be the next piece to be verified as Japan tsunami marine debris, pending confirmation by the Government of Japan, with assistance by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Consulate-General of Japan in Honolulu.

A boat found in Kahana Bay may be Tsunami debris

Pieces of a boat found in Kahana Bay may be Tsunami debris

The approximately 20-foot boat was reportedly seen floating whole on Thursday, November 29 in Kahana Bay. By Friday afternoon when it was officially reported, it had broken up into pieces on rocks on the northward outer edge of the bay. Staff from the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) the State’s lead agency for marine debris responses, were able to retrieve pieces of the boat from the rocks and bring them ashore on Saturday.

Further investigations by DLNR today in the ocean near where the boat had washed up on to the rocks recovered more pieces of the broken boat. Identification information found on the various pieces include Japanese characters (kanji) on a section of the bow, and Japanese registration numbers from pieces of the stern. The NOAA Marine Debris Program in Hawai‘i is working with the Japan Consulate on confirmation of the boat’s origin.

DLNR and NOAA will make a followup announcement if this item is confirmed. If it is confirmed, it will be the fourth confirmed tsunami marine debris item for Hawaii and the 17th overall for the U.S. and Canada. (Currently, there are 16 confirmed JTMD for US and Canada.)

Identification of the boat’s origin may also help with the identification of two species of mussels collected by DLNR staff that were attached to the boat as biofouling. The mussels could be a species that is present along the Japan coastline and is not currently known to be present in Hawai‘i.

Specimens were turned over to NOAA for further identification by Bishop Museum and possible genetic identification.

NOAA Announces Rules to Protect False Killer Whales off Hawaii

Measures reduce bycatch in longline fisheries; protect the insular population from extinction

Complying with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and two federal court orders, today NOAA Fisheries announced two actions to protect false killer whales in the Pacific Islands.  False killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens), are members of the dolphin family and, though naturally uncommon, are found worldwide. As top predators, false killer whales play an important role in the biodiversity of the oceans by helping maintain balance within the ecosystem.

A False Killer Whale and her baby

Rule to Reduce Bycatch under the Marine Mammal Protection Act

Under the MMPA, NOAA Fisheries is establishing measures to reduce incidental catch of two stocks of false killer whales in the Hawaii-based commercial longline fisheries. The MMPA requires the development of take reduction plans for certain marine mammal stocks where there is frequent or occasional bycatch of marine mammals in commercial fisheries.  False killer whales in waters around Hawaii are incidentally caught in the Hawaii-based tuna and swordfish longline fisheries and have adapted to take bait and fish off longline fishing hooks, which can cause them to become hooked or entangled. Currently, the bycatch of two false killer whale stocks, the Hawaii Pelagic and Main Hawaiian Islands Insular stocks, exceed the allowable levels established by the MMPA.

“The steps NOAA Fisheries is taking today will help mitigate the impact on these populations of false killer whales from accidental bycatch by longline fishing,” said Sam Rauch, NOAA’s deputy assistant administrator for fisheries. “NOAA worked closely with fishermen and stakeholders to develop scientifically-based and common-sense solutions to reduce the unintended catch of these mammals. We look forward to continuing our conversations with fishermen and others on bycatch reduction efforts.”

In 2010, NOAA Fisheries convened a take reduction team of government, conservation, academic, and industry stakeholders to develop recommendations to reduce false killer whale interactions in Hawaii’s commercial longline fisheries.

After careful consideration of the team’s recommendations, NOAA Fisheries published a proposed take reduction plan in 2011. NOAA Fisheries revised several aspects of the plan in response to public comments and additional analyses. The final plan requires the use of specific fishing hooks, implements closed fishing areas, and requires fishermen to receive training and certification in ways to release false killer whales that are incidentally caught. NOAA is under a court order to issue the final plan by November 30.

NOAA Fisheries will continue to partner with state agencies, conservation organizations, and the fishing industry to find ways to further reduce bycatch of false killer whales without unduly hampering fishing activities.

Complying with the Endangered Species Act and a court order to issue a final listing determination, NOAA Fisheries today is listing the Main Hawaiian Islands insular population of false killer whales as an endangered distinct population segment to protect it from possible extinction. The ESA defines an endangered species as “any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”

Main Hawaiian Islands insular false killer whales, which are found in and around the waters of Hawaii’s eight main islands, face a number of threats, including their small population (estimated at only 151 individuals) and low genetic diversity, as well as hooking and entanglement in fisheries. Surveys conducted by several independent researchers indicate the population has been in decline for at least the past two decades. In taking this action, NOAA reviewed a range of factors, including the population’s risk of going extinct based on its small numbers, threats facing the population, and current efforts to protect the population. NOAA is currently under a court order to issue the final listing determination by December 10.

“NOAA Fisheries used the best data and scientific information available to make this determination,” continued Rauch. “Based on the whales’ small population size, low genetic diversity, and other factors, it became clear to list the Main Hawaiian Islands insular population under the ESA to protect them for future generations and to protect biodiversity in our oceans.”

NOAA Fisheries will continue to monitor the status of the Main Hawaiian Islands insular population of false killer whales through periodic surveys and assessments. NOAA Fisheries will also consider whether to propose designating critical habitat for the population, and will develop a recovery plan with actions to conserve the species. Finally, through the ESA consultation process, NOAA Fisheries will work with federal agencies to ensure that projects or activities that they fund, authorize, or carry out will not jeopardize the continued existence of the listed false killer whale population.

To read the ESA status review, MMPA stock assessment, and final ESA and MMPA actions, visit http://www.fpir.noaa.gov/PRD/prd_false_killer_whale.html

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels at http://www.noaa.gov/socialmedia/.

On the Web: http://www.fpir.noaa.gov

Coast Guard, NOAA, DLNR Prepare for Return of Humpback Whales to Hawaiian Waters

Crews from the Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the State of Hawaii’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, from the Department of Land and Natural Resources are partnering together to protect humpback whales as they make their annual migration to Hawaiian waters.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Hyde watches as a whale swims underneath a Coast Guard Station Honolulu 47-foot Motor Life Boat in waters west of Molokai, Hawaii, U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Angela

Humpback whale season is generally from November to May with the peak season occurring during the months of January and March. According to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Marine National Sanctuary, whales come to the Hawaiian Islands to mate, calve, and nurse their young. They return to Alaska in the summer months because Hawaii’s waters are relatively nutrient-free and too warm to support enough of the humpback’s food to sustain them year-round. The whales must migrate back to colder water to feed and rebuild their blubber supply.

“It is certainly beneficial to have the Coast Guard, NOAA and DOCARE working together with the same goal of protecting these marine mammals,” said Eric Roberts, the 14th Coast Guard District’s marine mammal response manager. “By combining our resources, we are better prepared to protect this endangered species in a way that helps keep both the animals and Hawaii’s mariners safe.”

The 14th Coast Guard District is home to four marine national monuments and two national marine sanctuaries, more than any other region in the United States. Since the 2009-2010 humpback whale season, the Coast Guard has been conducting Operation Kohola Guardian, a program created to formalize the Coast Guard’s protection of the endangered humpback whale.

Operation Kohola Guardian involves coordinated joint Coast Guard, NOAA and DOCARE patrols of the sanctuary during the peak months of January through March. The Coast Guard aims to protect both the safety of mariners as well as the endangered humpback whales while in the sanctuary by direct communication with boaters.

“We are so fortunate to have the humpbacks visit Hawaii each year,” said Elia Herman, sanctuary co-manager with the DLNR.  “But with that comes added responsibility – and we all need to continue to work together to ensure the laws are followed and both whales and people are protected.”

There are several whale collisions near the Hawaiian Islands every year. Boaters can take proactive measures to ensure their safety as well as the safety of the whales. Keeping a boat’s speed down when whales are known to be in the area is one step mariners can take. Mariners should also maintain a sharp lookout at all times.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Lundy and Seaman Darren Park, both from Coast Guard Station Honolulu, watch as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration members remove line caught on a yearling whale in waters west of Molokai, Hawaii.

Weighing an average of 45 tons, a humpback whale collision with a mariner can be catastrophic. While on routine patrol, Coast Guard boats and air crews scan the area for signs of whales. If whales are sighted crews alert nearby mariners to ensure they remain away. It is illegal to approach within 100 yards of a whale. Aircraft are also prohibited from flying within 1,000 feet of a whale.

“Protecting humpback whales in Hawaii requires the work of multiple agencies. The Coast Guard, NOAA and the state of Hawaii’s DOCARE all play important roles, that when combined, result in better protection for whales in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary,” said Sanctuary Superintendent Malia Chow, from NOAA. “It is truly a multi-agency effort.”

Coast Guard crews conduct sanctuary patrols to ensure boaters and marine life stay safe.

“One of our core missions is the protection of marine mammals, so it’s crucial that we work closely with our federal, state and local partners to ensure that the maritime community is respecting our maritime laws,” said Roberts. “By partnering with NOAA and DOCARE, we’ve been able to increase our presence throughout the Sanctuary.”

The Coast Guard’s efforts to protect humpback whales are not limited to surface patrols. Coast Guardsmen act as first responders to entanglements and other marine mammal distress calls, and they are often the reporting source to NOAA and DOCARE. While on routine patrols, Coast Guard rescue helicopter crews from Air Station Barbers Point sometimes spot distressed marine mammals.

“Coast Guardsmen attend regular training focusing on large whale entanglement response and we are permitted to act on behalf of NOAA in certain circumstances,” Roberts said. “This provides our members with the technical knowledge to assess the extent of the entanglements and attached satellite tracking gear as needed. Additionally, our boat operators receive extensive training on safe approach techniques to limit the risks to both the animals and our response personnel.”

The Coast Guard assists with an average of 12 to 15 whale entanglements each season and transports numerous marine mammals that are in danger to safer locations.

Mariners and citizens are asked to report injured or entangled marine mammals to the Coast Guard on VHF marine band channel 16, or at 808-842-2600, or by contacting the NOAA fisheries hotline at 800-853-1964.

Individuals are invited to continue the conversation at www.Facebook.com/USCGHawaiiPacific.

For more information visit the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Web site at http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov/.

DLNR Examining Options of Removal of Strange Container From Big Island Shores

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is examining its options for removal of a large circular yellow metal container measuring approximately 10 feet high and 20 feet in diameter which washed ashore on the lava shore four miles south of Na’alehu in Ka’u district, south Hawai’i. A report was made to the department on October 4, from a caller who said he had seen it at Waikapuna on September 27. Hikers had also discovered the object on Wednesday, Oct. 3.

Photo from http://kaunewsbriefs.blogspot.com

A DLNR Big Island staff member was able to locate the object on Friday at the end of a fishing trail on
private land.  There were no signs of any identification marks so its origin at this time is unknown. There
were also no signs of marine life growing on the container, which appeared clean except for minimal algal
growth.

DLNR has asked various local maritime agencies for assistance to identify this type of large object.  NOAA is also checking its database of reported tsunami debris objects.

HOW TO REPORT POSSIBLE JAPAN TSUNAMI MARINE DEBRIS:

The public may report possible findings of possible Japan tsunami marine debris to the Department of Land and Natural Resources at dlnr@hawaii.gov, as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at disasterdebris@noaa.gov. Both agencies are asking for photos, date, detailed description of the item and if there are any living organisms other than gooseneck barnacles, location and finder’s contact information. Reports may be made by phone to DLNR at (808) 587-0400.

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Monk Seal Swallows Hook and Dies – DLNR Asks for Help in Reporting Hookings

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and NOAA Fisheries announced this week that since the beginning of 2012, NOAA Fisheries, DLNR, and partners have responded to 13 seal hooking incidents involving ten individual Hawaiian monk seals.

Due to early reporting, seven of the 11 live cases ended successfully with intervention from authorized federal and state agency monk seal responders. Two cases ended in the seal ridding itself without intervention, and although an intervention was attempted, one seal remains hooked to this day. Three cases ended in deaths.

Most recently, on October 2, 2012, the monk seal locally known as “RK54” was found dead near the Ninini Light house on Kauai. The seal swallowed a hook, became entangled in the line, and died. RK54 was born in April 2011 to RK22 (mother of the “famous” KP2 who resides at Waikiki Aquarium).

NOAA and DLNR would like to take this opportunity to remind fishermen that monk seal deaths and injuries from fishing interactions can often be prevented, and adverse impacts to fishermen and seals can be reduced through early reporting of incidents. RK54 had prior fisheries interactions, but because of timely reporting and intervention, proper care was provided and the seal recovered.

Monk Seal sign posted at Onekekaha Beach Park

“Monk seals are a vital part of Hawai‘i’s marine and cultural environment,” said William J. Aila, Jr., DLNR Chairperson. “While DLNR and NOAA seek to address all adverse impacts on Hawaiian monk seals, we want to acknowledge the cooperation of Hawai‘i fishermen and emphasize that we do not consider fishing interactions in the main Hawaiian Islands to currently pose a major threat to monk seal recovery.”

NOAA Fisheries Service data indicate that a total of 83 hooking-related interventions have occurred over the past 10 years, with a total of nine incidents in 2011 and 13 incidents thus far in 2012.  However, in only three cases, including one of the recent cases, have hookings been deemed the likely cause of a seal’s death,” Aila added. “We want to partner with the fishermen to further reduce impacts.

Following the guidelines and reporting hookings can help make a relatively small impact become even smaller.” The agencies offer guidelines, titled “Hawaiian Monk Seals and Fishing Interactions: Guidelines for Prevention, Safety and Reporting,” that describe actions fishermen can take to avoid seal hookings and entanglement, and to reduce fishing gear and bait loss. The guidelines also stress the importance of reporting all fishing interactions.

The toll-free, 24/7 reporting hotline for all fishing interactions and other marine mammal incidents is: 1-888-256-9840. NOAA and DLNR urge all fishermen and other ocean users to write down this hotline and/or save it in their mobile phones for timely use whenever a seal is hooked or entangled. “As the numbers of successful interventions from this year show, reporting early is important to the potential survival of the seal in question,” said David Schofield, Marine Mammal Health and Response Program Manager, NOAA NMFS PIRO.

Timely reporting of monk seal fishing interactions is beneficial in at least two ways:

1. First, reporting an interaction as soon as possible can help save a seal’s life or minimize seal injury. In at least three previous cases, real-time reporting of seals that had ingested hooks resulted in successful treatment and release of the seal back to the wild. These seals probably would have died without this intervention. On numerous other occasions, fishermen have provided timely reporting of less severe hooking and entanglements that were not immediately life-threatening, but could have become life threatening if not responded to. These timely reports have allowed response network members to get out to the location in time to locate the seal and safely remove the gear.

2. The second benefit to timely reporting is that it helps federal and state managers and researchers better understand how fishery interactions occur and thereby helps guide the development and testing of improved methods to prevent and mitigate interactions. By reporting and documenting interactions, fishermen can partner with NOAA and DLNR to find better non-regulatory methods to effectively keep seals away from fishing gear and fishing areas, while also allowing for monk seal conservation and recovery.

Tsunami Marine Debris Dock Goes Missing Off the Coast of Hawaii

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), the state’s lead agency for responding to reported possible Japan tsunami marine debris in Hawaii, is coordinating with NOAA and the U.S. Coast Guard to identify the current location of a 30 by 50-foot floating dock that was last seen on Wednesday, Sept. 19, by fishermen off the north coast of Molokai.

This dock was photographed by fisherman off the coast of Molokai on September 19th and now the DLNR is looking for it.

The dock is believed to be identical to three others reported missing from Japan after the March 2011 tsunami. Another one recently came ashore on an Oregon beach earlier this year.

This dock washed up on Oregon’s shores

”DLNR’s priority, with the critical help of the public and federal partners, is to re-find this large floating object, which is a hazard to vessels at sea and the wellbeing of our coastal resources. We need to be able to track its movement to try to intercept and handle the dock at sea, and to prevent serious environmental damage if it should reach shore,” said William J. Aila, Jr., DLNR chairperson.

DLNR has requested that boaters, fishers and pilots be alert to the possible presence of the dock and to immediately report any sightings of the dock to (808) 587-0400. NOAA is also requesting that sightings of marine debris be reported to diasterdebris@noaa.gov.

The Japan Consulate in Honolulu has been notified and, if the dock is relocated, will work with DLNR and NOAA to confirm the dock’s origin.

DLNR and the Department of Health (with assistance as needed from other state agencies) along with NOAA, the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S .Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are working together on the Hawaii response to marine debris from the 2011 Japan earthquake and resulting tsunami. The  interagency working group is coordinating with various federal, state and county partners, as appropriate, to facilitate response and regularly communicate to the public. NOAA continues to assist with model trajectories for possible movement of the dock by currents and winds, and has readied two satellite tracking buoys for state use should the dock be located.

On Tuesday, DLNR received a call from a Molokai resident who reported seeing styrofoam on a rocky cliff shoreline on the Molokai north coast. DLNR arranged for its Maui helicopter contractor to survey the north shores of Molokai and Lanai yesterday afternoon. Two staff members from the Division of Aquatic Resources Maui office participated as observers. A large quantity of foam pieces were noticed west of Moomomi and a ball of fishing debris. However there was no sighting of the dock in either location.

DLNR also received a report yesterday from a Laie resident who had found two large and one smaller black buoy on a local beach. There was no marine growth on them. The buoys were tested by the Department of Health and normal background levels of radiation were found.

HOW TO REPORT FINDINGS OF POSSIBLE TSUNAMI MARINE DEBRIS:

The public is invited to contact DLNR at (808) 587-0400 to report findings of possible tsunami marine debris. If possible, we request that a picture of the debris with a detailed description of the object, date found, location and finder’s contact information, be sent to dlnr@hawaii.gov this information will help DLNR staff to determine if a more thorough investigation is necessary. Reports may also made to NOAA at DiasasterDebris@noaa.gov DisasterDebris@noaa.gov

DLNR staff also checked out a large piece of yellow foam that was reported in Kahaluu earlier this week. It measured 4 inches wide by 4 feet long, with chicken wire molded between. It had a small amount of gooseneck barnacles (not of concern) on one side, but no other growth. There were no identifying marks and it did not look to be tsunami generated.

Other actions to locate the floating dock Between September 21 and 22, the U.S. Coast Guard conducted three flights where Coast Guard aircrews were able to observe the area between Molokai and Oahu for any sign of marine debris. No sightings were reported, and the dock has not yet been relocated. The Coast Guard also used a search and rescue computer program to plot the potential drift of the object using the last reported sighting of the dock from local fishermen on September 19.

The Coast Guard has systems in place to report significant objects and other hazards in the water through the issuance of notice to mariners. A broadcast notice to mariners has been issued that contains a description of the floating dock, the time and date it was sighted and the last known location. Cmdr. Martin Smith, chief of marine environmental response for the 14th Coast Guard District said, “The Coast Guard would like to remind mariners, as always, to remain on the lookout for debris or any other dangers while at sea.”

In conjunction with routine Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane law enforcement deployments and surveillance patrols of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine Monument, the Coast Guard has been on the lookout for marine debris in an attempt to help NOAA identify and track it.

On December 6, 2011, one such flight provided surveillance of a 58,000 square mile area off Midway; an area approximately the size of the state of Alabama. A small refrigerator was sighted, but nothing else.

On January 17, 2012, a second Hercules, with observers from NOAA and EPA aboard, provided surveillance covering 78,700 square miles; an area approximating the size of the state of North Dakota.No debris whatsoever was sighted.

Both of these flights were conducted in an area of the highest risk/probability of forecast debris  approaching the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, using University of Hawaii and NOAA drift modeling data. Routine law enforcement patrols continue to provide opportunities to search for marine debris.

The state is also collaborating with the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument as well as external stakeholders to assess and monitor the movement of other Japan tsunami marine debris. The Japan Ministry of the Environment estimates that 5 million tons of debris washed into the ocean (not the 25 million tons according to initial estimates). They further estimated that 70 percent of debris sank near the coast of Japan soon after the tsunami. Models and estimates completed by NOAA and the University of Hawai‘i reveal that some high-floating debris may have passed near or washed ashore on the Main and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as early as this summer.  During the summer, debris was found along the Pacific Coast of North America from Alaska southward to California.

Because most tsunami debris was washed out to sea before the release of radioactive materials from the power plant and because of its extended exposure to the elements, it is highly unlikely that the debris would be contaminated.

Even though the likelihood of discovering radioactive contamination on marine debris is low, the state Department of Health has been conducting shoreline surveillance since April 2011, in order to establish normal background radiation levels around the islands. The state Department of Health continues to conduct quarterly shoreline environmental surveys on O‘ahu, Maui. Kaua‘i, and the Hawai‘i Island.

Results of the surveys performed displays consistency with normal background radiation levels.

Additionally, the state Department of Health has partnered with NOAA to perform shoreline and debris monitoring on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Video: Public Warned to Keep Out of Water Around Whale Carcass in Pahoa – Sharks Actively Feeding

The DLNR is warning the public to keep out of the near shore and ocean waters off Pahoa, due to the presence of tiger sharks that are being attracted to a decomposing 50-foot long sperm whale carcass.


DLNR’s aquatic resources and enforcement divisions are working together to post shark warning signs and to direct the public to stay out of the water within one mile on either side of where the carcass located on the rocky shoreline in front of the Hawaiian Beaches Subdivision.

Numerous sharks are present and actively feeding on the carcass in nearshore waters. The carcass is also considered a public nuisance because of its offensive odor.The state office of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary at DLNR, in partnership with NOAA’s Fisheries Service, is working with a private marine salvage company to remove the carcass. The public is advised to remain out of these waters until three days after the carcass is removed. DLNR will issue updates as they become available.


Sperm whales are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act as well as Hawaii Revised Statute Ch. 195-D. Taking and possession of any part of the animal is prohibited without prior authorization from NOAA and the State. Disturbing and tampering with the carcass is also prohibited.An area resident first reported the carcass in the morning on Wednesday, August 22, 2012. A Hawaii County Fire Department Helicopter confirmed the presence of the carcass by about mid-morning, and it was up against the shore by the afternoon.

Video courtesy of Honua Consulting.

Oahu Man Busted for Harassing Monk Seals on Rabbit Island

An O‘ahu man was sentenced to a $1,000 fine and 80 hours of community service in Kaneohe District Court after being cited by Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) enforcement officers for illegally landing on Manana island. Also known as Rabbit island, it is a wildlife sanctuary that is closed to the public at all times.

Seals are protected under state and federal endangered species laws and are known to haul out on Manana to rest. Large prominent signs are posted on the island noting it is a sanctuary off-limits to visitors.

Travis Kane

Travis Kane, 19, was observed and photographed throwing rocks at a seal on the island on January 14, 2012. DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) officers followed and stopped Kane, a passenger on a personal water craft at the Kailua boat ramp, and cited him for illegal landing on the island and harassment of a monk seal. The man pleaded no contest at his court arraignment in May.

“We are strengthening our efforts to educate the public — kayakers, stand-up paddlers, fishers, boaters, beachgoers included — that it is a violation of state and federal law, subject to state penalties, to harass, harm or injure monk seals, which are an endangered species,” said William J. Aila, Jr., DLNR Chairperson. “These efforts include working with communities and “Makai Watch” groups, ocean recreation companies, and the visitor industry.

“It also includes consistent effort, again with community participation, to enforce these laws and seek proper penalties. There is no excuse for harming or harassing a monk seal. Anyone witnessing monk seal harassment, abuse or killing of a seal, is asked to call DOCARE at 643-DLNR or the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement at 1-800-853-1964. Working together we can protect our small population of these native seals that are important to our culture and ecosystem.”

Sea Turtles Remain Protected Under State And Federal Laws

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and NOAA Fisheries remind the community that sea turtles remain protected under State and Federal laws.

In Hawai‘i, sea turtles are protected by the Hawai‘i Revised Statutes (Chapter 195D) and Hawai‘i Administrative Rules (13-124). Although Federal and State wildlife conservation laws differ in some respects, all prohibit actions that can harm, injure, kill, or otherwise disturb sea turtles without a permit.

The two types of sea turtles most frequently observed in Hawai‘i nearshore waters are the green and hawksbill sea turtle. The green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) is listed as threatened and the hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Three other listed species – loggerhead, leatherback, and olive ridley sea turtles – generally inhabit offshore environments in the region and are very rarely seen in Hawai‘i’s coastal waters.

“We want to remind the community that all sea turtles are still protected, and that both State and
Federal consequences apply to anyone harming a green sea turtle,” said DLNR Chairperson William J. Aila, Jr. The public is urged to act responsibly and not attempt to touch, disturb, feed, pursue, ride, harass, harm, or otherwise injure these animals.

On February 16, 2012, NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (jointly referred to as the Services) received a petition to classify the Hawai‘i population of green sea turtle as a Distinct Population Segment (DPS) and evaluate that population for de-listing under the ESA. The contents of this petition are currently being reviewed to determine if the petition warrants further consideration. If so, a scientific review of the status of the species will be initiated.

While any person or organization may submit a petition to list or de-list a species, this action alone does not affect the legal status of that species. If the Services propose any changes to the listing status of green sea turtles in the future, public comments will be requested and considered before any final decisions about de-listing are made. “Even though a petition for de-listing was filed, green sea turtles in Hawai‘i remain protected under State and Federal laws,” said Aila.

Sea turtles across the U.S. face threats including, but not limited to, illegal harvest, destruction and alteration of nesting and feeding areas, incidental capture in commercial and recreational fisheries, entanglement in and ingestion of marine debris, disease, vessel strikes, and climate change. To effectively address all threats to sea turtles, the Services have developed recovery plans to direct research and management efforts for each sea turtle species.

In Hawai‘i, on-going sea turtle recovery activities include efforts to reduce and eliminate direct harvest of, and interactions with, sea turtles in nearshore and commercial fisheries; eliminate the threat of fibropapilloma (a tumor disease that can be harmful to sea turtles); protect important nesting and
feeding areas; and reduce impacts from boat strikes, disturbance, and marine debris.

To report a sea turtle in distress, please call (808) 983-5730 or visit NOAA’s sea turtle stranding website at: http://www.pifsc.noaa.gov/psd/mtrp/turtle_contact.php

For more information on the DLNR visit www.hawaii.gov/dlnr

For more information on NOAA visit http://www.fpir.noaa.gov/

For more information on the USFWS visit http://www.fws.gov/pacificislands/teslist.html

Hawaii to Receive Federal Money for Monk Seal and Sea Turtle Protection

Hawaii will receive $128,584 to develop and expand programs designed to protect and help preserve the Hawaiian monk seal, green sea turtles and hawksbill turtles, Senator Daniel K. Inouye and Senator Daniel K. Akaka announced today.

Monk Seal sign posted at Onekekaha Beach Park

The money comes from a grant administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The project will enhance efforts to reduce and document human disturbance of monk seals and sea turtles caused by growing numbers of beach goers and inshore recreational fishers on Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Hawaii island.

The project will establish the States first Marine Protected Species (MPS) program for the long-term conservation and management of monk seals and sea turtles.

The work will include developing and delivering public education products and activities. Outreach efforts will be designed to enhance public knowledge of “seal-friendly” and “turtle-friendly” ocean recreation and fishing practices.

The work will also entail direct intervention at popular beaches and fishing areas.

“Protecting the monk seal, the most endangered fin-footed marine mammal in U.S. waters, the green sea turtle and the hawksbill turtle will require a concerted effort by all who use the ocean.  The alleged killing of four monk seals during the last six months highlights the immediate need for a combination of intervention and culturally sensitive education and outreach.  This grant will continue the process of correcting misinformation about the monk seal while also addressing the challenges facing the green sea and hawksbill turtles.  We must be diligent stewards of the ocean and I am very pleased the administration recognizes the need to invest in the protection of these marine animals,” said Senator Inouye.

“The monk seal and honu are among Hawaii’s most treasured native species.  We must do all we can to protect these important marine animals so that our keiki and future generations can learn from and enjoy them like we do,” said Senator Akaka.