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Protecting Hawai‘i's Rare Native Seabirds from Lights, Powerlines and Structures

A Newell's shearwater.

The Newell’s shearwater is a threatened species.

Brenda Zaun / U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

What's at Stake

The Newell’s shearwater is a threatened species, and Hawaiian petrels and band-rumped storm petrels in Hawaiʻi are endangered species. Nearly all of the world’s Newell’s Shearwaters (also known by the Hawaiian name ʻaʻo) nest on Kauaʻi. From 1993 to 2008, the Kauaʻi population of Newell’s Shearwaters declined by 75 percent, in large part due to birds striking powerlines and becoming disoriented from the utility’s streetlights while flying at night.

Overview

The Newell’s shearwater is a threatened species, and Hawaiian petrels and band-rumped storm petrels in Hawaiʻi are endangered species. Nearly all of the world’s Newell’s shearwaters (also known by the Hawaiian name ʻaʻo) nest on Kauaʻi. From 1993 to 2008, the Kauaʻi population of Newell’s shearwaters declined by 75 percent, in large part due to birds striking powerlines and becoming disoriented from the utility’s streetlights while flying at night.

On Kauaʻi, Earthjustice litigation helped persuade Kauaʻi Island Utility Cooperative to take steps to protect Hawaiian petrels, Newell’s shearwaters and other protected species of seabirds that die when colliding with powerlines and buildings. For decades, endangered Hawaiian petrels and threatened Newell's shearwaters have been killed and injured by flying into powerlines and associated structures owned and operated by Kauaʻi Island Utility Cooperative. KIUC's own estimate was that it killed nearly 200 listed seabirds per year, in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

Case ID

1219

Attorneys

Case Updates

June 15, 2017 | Legal Document

Notice of Intent: Lawsuit Launched to Stop Hawai‘i’s Airport, Harbor Lights From Killing Rare Seabirds

This letter serves as a sixty-day notice on behalf of Hui Hoʻomalu i Ka ʻĀina, Conservation Council for Hawaiʻi, and the Center for Biological Diversity, of intent to sue the Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation over violations of Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1538, for unpermitted “take” of threatened Newell’s shearwaters (Puffinus auricularis newelli), endangered Hawaiian petrels (Pterodroma sandwichensis), and Band-rumped Storm petrels (Oceanodrama castro) from the endangered Hawaiʻi distinct population segment associated with HDOT’s airport and harbor facilities on the islands of Kauaʻi, Maui, and Lānaʻi.