Latest Articles

  • Cluster of False Killer Whales Tagged for First Time Off Kona

    · By Cliff Hahn

    In an exciting encounter with an elusive group of Pseudorca (that’s “false killer whales” in non-geek terms), a team of biologists from Cascadia Research Collective were able to tag three of the cetaceans (marine species that includes whales, dolphins, and porpoises) which will enable satellite tracking of their movements throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Each tag is attached remotely (smart idea) and will provide GPS coordinates 10 to 12 times a day for the next few months.

    Cascadia Research

    The team was also able to photograph about 20 different individuals and will compare them to an existing photo catalog. “Every adult in the population is distinctive,” says Dr. Robin Baird, a research biologist with Cascadia, the non-profit organization that is leading the research. “We’ve already discovered that one of the individuals photographed was first documented in 1986, twenty-nine years ago.”

    The new tags are showing that the whales have remained off the north end of Hawaii Island and in the Alenuihahi. (Channel that separates the island of Hawaii and Maui.)

    But where are they going next? That’s anyone’s guess.

    False killer whales have not been studied much in the wild — which is why last weekend’s tagging is so important. In November 2012, the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recognized the Hawaiian population of false killer whales, which numbers around 150 individuals, as endangered. Historically, the species was thought extinct until the discovery of a large cluster in the Baltic Sea’s Kiel Bay in 1861.

    Cascadia Research


  • NOAA Wants Humpback Whales Off Endangered Species List

    · By James Cave

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Monday proposed removing more than two-thirds of the world’s humpback whales from the endangered species list after 45 years of conservation.

    NOAA’s proposal would consider 10 of the world’s 14 distinct populations of the whales “not warranted” for the endangered species list. The Cape Verde Islands/Northwest Africa and Arabian Sea populations would still be considered endangered, and the Western North Pacific and the Central America populations would remain in the category of threatened.

    NOAA placed humpbacks on the endangered species list in 1970, and credits the resurgence in humpback populations to successful conservation efforts around the world.

    “It’s quite a big deal, to bring a species to a point where the population is doing well and no longer needs” to be classified as endangered, Donna Wieting, director of NOAA Fisheries office of protected resources, said during a press conference. “These kinds of recovery efforts happen from the efforts of people, agencies [and] citizen actions, in addition to all the scientific research.”

    Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries, said the humpback’s return is an Endangered Species Act “success story.”

    This would be the first time NOAA has removed a whale from the endangered species list since the agency delisted gray whales in 1994.

    This NOAA map shows the approximate locations of humpback whale distinct populations: 1. West Indies, 2. Cape Verde Islands/Northwest Africa, 3. Western North Pacific, 4. Hawaii, 5. Mexico, 6. Central America, 7. Brazil, 8. Gabon/Southwest Africa, 9. Southeast Africa/Madagascar, 10. West Australia, 11. East Australia,

  • Feds Keep Protections for Hawaii Green Sea Turtles

    · By Nathan Eagle

    The feds have denied a petition to take Hawaii green sea turtles off the list of threatened species.

    The honu news came Friday from the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    NMFS and FWS denied the 2012 petition to delist the Hawaii green sea turtle because of its small and narrowly distributed nesting population and threats of climate change and sea level rise.

    A green sea turtle gets some sun and sleep on the north shore of Oahu.

    Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

    The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council’s executive director, Kitty Simonds, was behind the push to delist the Hawaii green sea turtles. She was president of the Maunalua Hawaiian Civic Club that introduced the proposal to the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs. (Wespac actually got in trouble for using its staff to prepare the petition.)

    The feds plan to classify green sea turtles in 11 distinct population segments to better manage the species.

    A study found that some groups — Florida and along the Pacific Coast of Mexico — are doing better thanks to conservation efforts but others are getting worse.

    The feds want to give more protection to green sea turtles in American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands by bumping them up from “threatened” to “endangered.”

    There’s a public hearing on that proposed rule, which is open for public comment until June 22, that starts at 6 p.m., April 8, at the Japanese Cultural Center in Honolulu.

  • ‘If You’re the Bad Guy, Everybody Needs to Know’

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Glenn Teves, the longtime University of Hawaii agriculture extension agent on Molokai, is tired of everyone being so nice.

    “If you’re the bad guy, everybody needs to know,” he said. “The nursery industry is the bad guy.”

    Teves is part of the Hawaii Environmental Council, a 15-member group (minus four vacancies) that was holding its annual strategic planning meeting Thursday at the Capitol.

    A stream runs through a forest on Kauai. The Hawaii Environmental Council held their annual planning meeting Thursday, discussing ways to protect native ecosystems.

    The council spent the morning hearing from experts about the ecological and economical problems caused by invasive species and climate change that Hawaii must confront. The afternoon session was slated to focus on goals for the coming year and strategies to achieve them.

    Teves and others blame the nursery industry for bringing in bugs and plants that damage Hawaii’s natural ecosystems and cause other problems.

    The nursery industry was hardly the only one to be singled out during the discussion. The Department of Agriculture was noted for its lack of enforcement teeth, the Attorney General’s Office was mentioned for sitting on proposed rules that could make a difference and the military and all its airfields were blamed for not being more responsive to the problem.

    The council falls under the purview of the Office of Environmental Quality Control, led by its new director, Jessica Wooley, who was confirmed last legislative session.

    Check out the meeting’s agenda here and look to Civil Beat later for a full report.

  • Should the U.S. Expand Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument?

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Members of the public will have their first and possibly only in-person opportunity Monday evening to let federal officials know how they feel about President Barack Obama’s plan to greatly expand the boundaries of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. 

    The monument, which President George W. Bush established in 2009, is comprised of five uninhabited islands or atoll complexes, including Wake, Jarvis, Howland and Baker Islands, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll. 

    Obama wants to expand the current protections — which extend 50 miles offshore — to include the full U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, which covers 200 nautical miles off the coast of each island or atoll.

    The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are hosting the town hall meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Carnation Room of the Ala Moana Hotel in Honolulu. 

    A minute anemone shrimp on the outer surface of the anemone Heteractis magnifica, Kingman Reef lagoon, 12 meters depth.

    Enric Sala

    Stakeholders ranging from conservationists and scientists to Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners and fishermen are expected to take part in the discussion. 

    Here’s what a couple of them had to say about the effort to protect what is being described as one of the last remaining near-pristine ecosystems in the world, which includes 14 million seabirds of 19 species, 22 different marine mammal species, endangered sea turtles and ancient corals. 

    “If we protect these zones, we will likely not affect the

  • Hawaii DOT Refusal to Switch Out Lights Means Likely Federal Indictment

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Department of Transportation blamed for deaths of endangered birds, turtles and moths.

  • Third Monk Seal Found Dead on Molokai

    · By Sophie Cocke

    Federal officials are looking into the cause of death.

  • Hawaiian Nene Being Kicked Off Kauai

    · By Sophie Cocke

    State spending $7.2 million to ship endangered birds from Lihue airport to Maui and the Big Island.

  • Slideshow: Saving Hawaii’s Rarest Orchid

    · By Jon Letman

    Experience a “pepalicious” day in the bogs of Kauai.

  • Saving Hawaii’s Rarest Orchid

    · By Jon Letman

    A “pepalicious” day in the bogs of Kauai, a journey to the site of Kauai’s last known wild Platanthera.

  • Malama Da Aina, Except at Kaena Point?

    · By Sara Lin

    Endangered monk seals and albatross inhabit one end of the state park, illegal off-roading tears up the other.

  • ‘Strong, Swift Action’ Needed to Control Big Island Deer

    · By The Civil Beat Staff

    DLNR acknowledges axis deer on Big Island. Deer pose threat to agriculture, natural resources.

  • There’s a Ram Living Above Pearl City

    · By Michael Levine

    One reporter-host stumbles on a mouflon sheep above Pearl City.

  • Big Island Plans Response to Deer Sightings

    · By Michael Levine

    If uncontrolled, spotted deer threaten crops, native plants.

  • Rescuing Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals — By Moving Them To The City

    · By The Civil Beat Staff

    Biologists propose unorthodox plan to help save Hawaiian species.