Analysis: Shearwaters, Hawaiian Petrels could be wiped out in 30 years

Published: Oct. 18, 2017 at 9:18 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 19, 2017 at 9:49 AM HST
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(Image: KESRP)
(Image: KESRP)

KAUAI, (HawaiiNewsNow) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released an analysis that estimates 1,800 endangered seabirds on Kauai are killed by collisions with power lines every year.

Most of the birds are Newell's Shearwaters.

"We always knew that there was a problem but this is really the first time that we've seen how significant and serious the problem is," said Brett Hartl of the Center for Biological Diversity.

The study forecasts that at the present death rate, Kauai's Shearwater and Hawaiian Petrel populations will be wiped out in about 30 years unless more preventive measures are adopted.

The seabirds hit the power lines at night when they're flying back to their nesting grounds high in the mountains.

"The power lines are basically invisible," Hartl said. "These birds can fly 30 miles an hour or more. When they hit those lines they either are killed or they get really injured, they break their wings."

The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative has taken steps to curb the kills. It removed some power lines and realigned others, and installed lasers on some power poles that the birds can see and avoid.

A statement from Kauai county officials lays out how much money has been spent to protect the seabirds and what is still being planned.

"The costs for the retrofits and facility upgrades for light minimization are about $5.3 million, fines and assessments as result of probation are about $225,000, and consultation contract costs for the upcoming Kauai Seabird Habitat Conservation Program are still being worked out," the statement said.

The analysis for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends more action that will cost more money, including fencing off the bird's nesting areas.

"That's going to require help from the state, help from the Federal government," Hartl said.

The report points out that the majority of Newell's Shearwaters and Hawaiian Petrels that are killed by power line strikes are adult birds.

"That's incredibly significant because that bird has not only lost its chance to breed, it's chick will probably die. So these power lines are indiscriminately killing adults and young," Hartl said.

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