Ana may have impacted NW Hawaiian Islands - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Ana may have impacted NW Hawaiian Islands

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Hurricane Ana did little substantial damage to the main Hawaiian Islands when it passed through. However, scientists fear the damage could be much greater to the isolated Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

"Although they're uninhabited [by humans], they're inhabited by a multitude of marine life, sea birds and terrestrial birds, many of which are endangered" explained Dr. Randy Kosaki, NOAA's Deputy Superintendent of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

"Many of these islands on these atolls are very low islands. They're basically glorified sandbars, maybe 6-7 feet elevation above sea level…a big storm could wash over these islands even wash them completely away" he continued.

They may seem inconspicuous, but those sandbars are of incredible importance. Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles use them for reproduction.

"All the turtles at Laniakea that the tourists go to see? 90% of those go back to French Frigate Sholes to nest, and they're very, very, dependent on a few small sandbars for nesting habitat. So if the islands go away, conceivably the monk seals and turtles go away" said Kosaki.

Dr. Kosaki explained that the coral reefs in the area may have also experienced damage due to storm surf. Unfortunately, he and his team won't be able to return to much of the area until next summer.

"It's a long ways to go, it takes a sizeable ship to get out there and those ships are usually scheduled many months if not years in advance" he said.

Dr. Kosaki is planning a plane trip to Midway Atoll, given its airstrip. However, that's the only location he'll be able to reach until 2015.

To support the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, visit: http://nmsfocean.org

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