Conservation groups threaten to sue Maui resort for bright lights killing native birds

Hawaiian petrel chick
Hawaiian petrel chick(Andre Raine/Kaua'i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project)
Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 8:57 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 15, 2021 at 10:18 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii conservation groups are warning a luxury resort on Maui that they will sue if the hotel does not fix bright lights that have been injuring and killing native seabirds.

Earthjustice, which is representing the Conservation Council for Hawaii and Center for Biological Diversity, said illumination from the Grand Wailea Resort has led to the deaths of Hawaiian petrels every year since 2009.

Conservationists said because the birds use the moon and stars to navigate, they can often become distracted by artificial lights while flying between breeding colonies.

Researchers said the birds circle the bright lights until they fall to the ground from exhaustion or strike buildings. Once grounded, it is difficult for the birds to take flight, which leaves them vulnerable to predators, starvation and being run over by vehicles.

The groups said while there are multiple sources of bright light on Maui, the Grand Wailea’s 40-acre property is particularly harmful to Hawaiian petrels compared to other hotels on the island.

The conservation groups said it is especially important that the resort fix these lights as the largest Hawaiian petrel nesting colony is located on the volcanic slips of Haleakala.

“Endangered uau (Hawaiian petrel) are at a tipping point,” said Maxx Phillips, Hawaii director and staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It is everyone’s responsibility, including the Grand Wailea, to ensure these incredible birds are moving towards recovery, not plummeting into extinction.”

In a statement, the Grand Wailea said it is reviewing the letter and “will respond at the appropriate time to correct any misunderstandings.”

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