The St. Regis Princeville Resort will further reduce its lighting and fund programs aimed at restoring populations of two threatened seabirds under an agreement reached on October 8, 2010 with Earthjustice, attorneys for Hui Ho‘omalu I Ka ‘Äina, Conservation Council for Hawai‘i, Center for Biological Diversity and American Bird Conservancy. The two seabirds are Newell’s Shearwaters and endangered Hawaiian Petrels.
Many experts believe Kaua‘i’s seabirds use the moon’s reflection on the water to help guide them to the ocean and are attracted to lights that create the same effect. Fledglings, which leave nests for their first flight to the sea from mid-September to mid-December, are particularly vulnerable. Some birds are attracted to the resort’s lights and get confused, circling until they land on the ground from exhaustion or strike a building. Once on land, these birds cannot take off again from a flat surface.
“The resort has been working to keep the endangered birds safe for many years including participating in the Save Our Shearwaters (SOS) program and serving as a Shearwater aid station. During a recent remodel, the resort consulted with experts and implemented additional measures to reduce seabird attraction. In the spirit of cooperation, we were pleased to work with the conservation groups’ experts and identify additional ways to further reduce lighting during the fledging season,” said Milton Sgarbi, general manager of the St. Regis Resort.
“By turning off and turning down lights, the hotel is taking meaningful steps to minimize the attraction problem in this important seabird flyway,” said Maka‘ala Ka‘aumoana of Hui Ho‘omalu I Ka ‘Äina.
“The parties worked together cooperatively to identify additional lighting reductions that will help reduce the number of seabirds that come down at the resort and, at the same time, allow the St. Regis to continue to provide its guests with a safe and enjoyable experience,” said Earthjustice attorney David Henkin.
In addition, since seabirds may still be attracted to the remaining lights at the resort, the resort will make contributions to off-site projects aimed at protecting the seabirds.
“The St. Regis Princeville has worked very hard over the years to implement a seabird protection program and remains committed to the safe passage of our native seabirds to and from their ocean environment. This agreement further demonstrates our commitment to help protect an important part of Hawai‘i’s natural heritage both directly, by making additional lighting changes, and indirectly, through funding of seabird projects,” said Stephanie Kaluahine Reid, director of public relations for The St. Regis Princeville Resort.
“This immediate infusion of funding will make a big difference to critical conservation efforts that will directly benefit native seabirds,” said Don Heacock, a biologist and member of Conservation Council for Hawai‘i.
“The Newell’s Shearwater population on Kaua‘i has declined 75 percent in just 15 years,” said Peter Galvin of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The birds are more likely to survive over the long term if we take a multi-pronged approach that addresses both reducing fallout and improving nesting habitat.”
The resort is seeking an incidental take permit under the Endangered Species Act. It has been actively participating in the application process for an island-wide permit being coordinated by the State of Hawai‘i’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“We are pleased that the resort is stepping up to the plate and taking responsibility for the effects of its operations on imperiled seabirds, even before securing a permit,” said George Wallace of the American Bird Conservancy. “If other entities on Kaua‘i also took a proactive approach by dimming their lights and contributing to seabird protection, it would go a long way towards ensuring these magnificent birds will be around for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.”
This agreement resolves the conservation groups’ lawsuit, which was filed in May 2010.