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Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023

Between Ka Lae and Kamilo volunteers from here and New Zealand picked up over 1,800 tons of marine debris.
Photo by Megan Lamson/Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund

HAWAI‘I WILDLIFE FUND TEAMED UP WITH SEA CLEANERS NEW ZEALAND LAST WEEK. They brought a group of visiting youth and young adult ocean ambassadors from New Zealand, Australia and Oʻahu, to help support cleanup efforts in Kaʻū with HWF, and in Kohala with Pololū community stewards. The dozen ambassadors, ages 16 to 20, also led environmental education lessons in classrooms at public schools
    Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund community-based cleanup events are funded by private donations and a 2021 NOAA Marine Debris Program competitive grant award, and this Sea Cleaners youth ambassador trip was supported by the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, Hawaiian Airlines, and Billabong Australia.
Sea Cleaners from New Zealand joined Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund to clean up the Kaʻū
 Coast from Kalae to Kamilo. Photo by Megan Lamson/ Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund
    Megan Lamson, Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund Program Director, said, "Over 100 bags of ocean pollution were removed from the coastline between Ka Lae and Kamilo with support from community volunteers and the ocean ambassadors with Sea Cleaners during two cleanup events. We were able to remove over 1,850 pounds of marine debris, including an estimated 400 pounds of derelict fishing net bundles, and divert approximately 500 pounds of plastic pollution from the landfill by collaborating with local artist, Don Elwing of Sea Love. Together, we can stem the rising tide of trash and better protect our native wildlife and coastal communities."
    Capt. Hayden Smith, founder of Sea Cleaners said, "We've made a lot of progress, but there is still much to do. That's why — even 20 years in — we still measure every day in bags of rubbish removed from the water – this isn't the kind of problem you can solve overnight with a silver bullet, it takes consistent effort every day. It will require ongoing work from all of us, from governments to companies and individual people, to shift the health of our oceans back towards where they need to be."
    Kona-based nonprofit, Clean Rewards, also teamed up with Tan & Salty Hawaiʻi to host a community

Interested persons can volunteer for cleanups in Kaʻū. 
Photo by Megan Lamson/Hawai'i Wildlife Fund
cleanup event on Saturday, Sept. 16 at Old Kona Airport with an educational booth by The Marine Mammal Center, beginning with with a yoga class from The Yoga Nest. They had 15 volunteers who helped to remove 10 pounds of trash, primarily small pieces of litter (e.g., microplastics, cigarette butts, bottle caps), including 501 cigarette butts.
   Aaron Draime, founder of Clean Rewards, said, "Small sustainable changes create ripples to help change the future."
    Also on Saturday, the Marine Option Program led 16 University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo students to clean along the Hilo coastline from the mouth of Wailoa River (near Hilo Bay Café and Liliʻuokalani Gardens) to the old Uncle Billy's Hotel. This MOP team removed an estimated 150-200 pounds of trash, including many old bike parks, broken glass fragments and miscellaneous accumulated litter from abandoned homeless encampments. Fishing line collected that day was added to the monofilament line bins that were previously installed by a past UHH MOP student, and are currently being maintained by the Hawaiʻi DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources' Protected Species Program staff.
Fishing nets that wash into tidepools and
the shore are major polluters of Kaʻū Coast.
Photo by Megan Lamson/Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund
 Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund recommends that interested persons support upcoming legislation to reduce the amount of single-use plastics in Hawaiʻi County. "Try your best to eliminate disposable items from your daily lives, and join in for a community or coastal cleanup event near you! You can check out cleanup calendars on various NGO websites or ask HWF about their do-it-yourself beach cleanup tips for local    County / State beach parks and along public trails."
    Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund has removed over 325 tons (650,000 pounds) of marine debris from the shores of Hawaiʻi Island since 2003 (over 90% recovered from along the remote Kaʻū coastline) with help from over 60,000 hours of volunteer labor.
    Clean Rewards has removed over 16,000 pounds of litter since it was founded in 2018. Clean Rewards will have a station at the Hokulia Bypass Cleanup hosted by Miss Kona Coffee 2023, Shyla Victor, on Saturday, Sept. 23 from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. with kids events and entertainment to follow in the Keauhou Shopping Center from noon to 3 p.m.
    Cleanup contacts – Hawaiʻi Island: Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund (Kaʻū) – kahakai.cleanups@gmail.com or wildhawaii.org/calendar; University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Marine Options Program: http://uhhmop.hawaii.edu/;
Clean Rewards (Kona) – cleanrewards@gmail.com; Clean The Pacific (North Kohala) cleanthepacific808@gmail.com; Keep Puakō Beautiful (South Kohala)- keeppuakobeautiful@gmail.com; Ocean Defenders Alliance (Kona – Kohala dive cleanups) – sarah@oceandefenders.org
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park invites volunteers to help
 at its native plant nursery. NPS Photo by Jay Robinson

VOLUNTEERS ARE INVITED TO THE PLANT RESTORATION NURSERY at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Nursery Operations Lead Eric-Preston Hameren said the Ke Ēweiēwe – Plant Restoration project welcomed volunteers back to the greenhouses "to give all of our plants some love! I am very excited for you all to see the plants because everything has grown so much over the summer." Sign up to volunteer for September and October at https://forms.office.com/g/DnGcatTKmS. Call 808-985-6195.

Band-rumped storm-petrel lives at sea but nests on Mauna Loa. DLNR wildlife biologist Alex
Wang searched for the bird for seven years and finally found its nesting place in July
Photo by Alex Wang

THE BAND-RUMPED STORM-PETREL HAS BEEN FOUND. State Department of Land & Natural Resources released a report on the critically endangered species on Tuesday saying:
    For seven years, Alex Wang, Wildlife Biologist with the DLNR’s Division of Forestry & Wildlife, has searched for signs of the band-rumped storm-petrel, or ‘akē‘akē, nesting on Hawai‘i Island. After a long process of night surveys requiring patience, method refinement, and a generous dose of resolve, that day finally arrived in July.
    The cryptic, nocturnal seabird species is native to Hawai‘i and inhabits remote areas of our state, with the vast majority likely breeding on Kaua‘i. Though the storm-petrel is widespread across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans with numbers estimated at 150,000, the Hawaiian population is small, maybe fewer than
The critically endangered band-rumped storm-petrel was found in a huge lava cave
 on Mauna Loa with help from detective dogs. Photo by Alex Wang
250 pairs. It is listed as Critically Endangered. As Wang and a group of fellow Hawai‘i Island biologists have learned, it is challenging to locate and estimate the population size of the smallest and rarest seabird species to breed in Hawai‘i.
    “I’m super excited to finally confirm a burrow, because ‘akē‘akē aren’t the easiest to track,” said Wang. “Investing so much time and energy, to get proof is a relief. It’s been a long time coming.”
    Prior to the recent discovery, only four other nesting sites have been confirmed in the state. Part of the challenge of tracking the species is their furtive behavior. On Hawai‘i Island, these birds nest in high-elevation burrows and crevices on barren lava flows, often in burrow complexes with multiple entrances and exits.
    ‘Akē‘akē also leave their burrows before first light, spend the entire day, or multiple days at sea, and return only after dark. And, unlike their larger cousins, the Hawaiian Petrel or ʻUaʻu, who leave guano just outside their own burrows making detection easier, ‘akē‘akē offer no such assistance.
    Steps taken to determine their presence at the Mauna Loa Forest Reserve include the use of infrared thermal binoculars, remote acoustic recorders called song meters, night vision equipment, and motion-activated game cameras that canvas the lava flows for nightly bird activity. In addition to these tools, special ‘akē‘akē detection dogs were brought on board to pinpoint potential nests. The addition of the dogs, Slater and Ikaika, and biologist/trainer Michelle Reynolds to the team, offered a complementary and welcome boost to the search effort.
    “The detection dogs are game changers,” said Wang. “They’ve made the search much more feasible. Each time we take them out, we uncover more potential burrows. It’s a big step.”
    Ecological detection dogs are trained similarly to dogs used in law enforcement. The dogs get imprinted on an odor, are reinforced to associate that odor through a primary reward, and use their keen sense of smell to locate the scent.
A detection dog imprinted with the odor of the endangered
petrel worked with the researchers to find their bird.
Photo Alex Wang
    “One of the most fantastic things about dog olfaction is their ability to navigate,” Reynolds said. “It’s not that they can just smell it, they can find it.” She added that it’s more of a game than an obedience activity for the dogs. More fun than work.
    It was five-year-old Ikaika who discovered the burrow which was later confirmed by game camera images. Armed with little more than a sharp nose and an intrinsic drive for a “rewarding” job, dogs can spend hours tracking down a scent.
    Reynolds acknowledged that paw protection was a concern that could hinder their search capability due to the rough, uneven surfaces of the pāhoehoe lava. She alleviated the issue by creating special lava booties constructed from motorcycle tire inner tubes. This made a potential major issue a minor one.
    With the help of the detection dogs, Wang is hopeful the team can track down more petrels in the near future. Their work to find these stealthy ‘akē‘akē is important as they may be endemic and soon be recognized as a distinct species. In the meantime, he wants to defend these birds from predator threats to ensure their continued existence.
    “We know these seabirds are vulnerable to invasive mammals, especially cats and mongooses,” Wang said. He hopes to add a predator-proof fence as a more secure control method to the traps and other protections to help preserve this endangered species indefinitely.