Archive for July, 2012

KP2's message to the world

July 30th, 2012
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KP2, or Ho‘aiolona, the orphaned Hawaiian monk seal, playing in the water. Photo courtesy of The Penguin Press.

KP2, or Ho‘ailona, the orphaned Hawaiian monk seal, playing in the water. Photo courtesy of The Penguin Press.

KP2, or Ho‘ailona, has a message for the world.

It's a message about the plight of Hawaiian monk seals. With only 1,100 left in the world, the seals are on the brink of extinction if we don't do anything about it. The Caribbean monk seal, a close cousin, went extinct in 1952. The Mediterranean monk seal is also critically endangered – only 500 are left in the wild.

In "The Odyssey of KP2," by Terrie M. Williams, we learn of KP2's unusual life, from birth and abandonment by his mother on a Kauai shoreline to his rescue and release on Molokai by federal agencies, only to be retrieved from those waters because he became too friendly with humans at Kaunakakai Harbor.

There were also fishermen that wanted KP2 out of their waters because they did not want him eating their fish. Plucking him from the harbor was highly controversial, setting off protests from Molokai residents who said KP2 belonged in their waters.

So KP2 ends up under Williams' care at Long Marine Laboratory, UC Santa Cruz. While measuring his metabolic rate and carrying out other studies, she concludes that Hawaiian monk seals are biologically tied to the Hawaiian isles. That is, they thrive and survive best in Hawaii.

KP2, because of eyesight problems, was not able to be released back into the wild, but has since found a new home at the Waikiki Aquarium. You can watch him on the aquarium's webcam: www.waquarium.org/webcams.html.

But the plight of the Hawaiian monk seal continues. In April, a Hawaiian monk seal died under suspicious circumstances in northeastern Kauai. It was the fourth death of a monk seal since November. Two have died on Kauai and two on Molokai.

In good conditions, Hawaiian monk seals live an average of 25 to 30 years in the wild, weighing anywhere between 375 to 450 pounds.

The biggest threats to Hawaiian monk seals are entanglement, food limitation, disease, shark bites and climate change.

Williams says you don't have to be a scientist to help – sign a petition, support more funding for monk seal research or organize a beach cleanup. Spread the word by making a video, writing a song or poem or drawing a picture to show you care on the Save Monk Seals Facebook page.

It could be as simple as picking up after yourself at the beach. Monk seals, because of their curiosity, love to lie on anything left at the beach (including trash) and that's what sometimes gets them entangled.

To learn more about what you can do, visit www.savemonkseals.ucsc.edu.

Other websites where you can learn more include NOAA's monk seal research site, NOAA Fisheries and Marine Mammal Center which plans to build a Hawaiian monk seal hospital in Kona. The Monk Seal Foundation's Pu‘uhonua Initiative seeks to create a dedicated Hawaiian monk seal facility and education program at Sea Life Park.

NOAA collects 50 metric tons from Papahanaumokuakea

July 17th, 2012
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Nearly 50 metric tons of marine debris, which threaten monk seals and other marine life, were collected from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, or Papahanaumokuakea. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Nearly 50 metric tons of marine debris, which threaten monk seals and other marine life, were collected from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, or Papahanaumokuakea. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Scientists aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette collected nearly 50 metric tons of marine debris from Papahanaumokuakea earlier this week.

The debris, which basically is trash that ends up in the ocean, whether it be derelict fishing nets, ropes or pieces of disposable plastic, threatens monk seals, sea turtles and other marine life in the coral reef ecoystem.

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has been conducting annual removal missions of marine debris from Papahanaumokuakea (or the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands) since 1996 as part of a coral restoration effort.

“What surprises us is that after many years of marine debris removal in Papahānaumokuākea and more than 700 metric tons of debris later, we are still collecting a significant amount of derelict fishing gear from the shallow coral reefs and shorelines,” said Kyle Koyanagi, marine debris operations manager at NOAA Fisheries’ Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and chief scientist for the mission. “The ship was at maximum capacity and we did not have any space for more debris.”

The marine debris was collected from waters and shorelines around the northernmost islands and atolls including: Kure Atoll, Midway Atoll, Pearl and Hermes Atoll, Lisianski Island and Laysan Island.

It will be converted into energy through the Hawaii Nets to Energy Program.

The NOAA team also looked for debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan, but did not find any.

Solar-powered nuts

July 12th, 2012
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Island Princess harvests macadamia nuts from its 1,100-acre orchard at Keaau on the Big Island. Courtesy photo.

Island Princess harvests macadamia nuts from its 1,100-acre orchard at Keaau on the Big Island. Courtesy photo.

The Island Princess Macadamia Nut Company plans to install a 121-kilowatt (KW) solar photovoltaic system this summer at its orchard on the Big Island. Sunetric is installing the system.

The fixed, ground-mount system will be used to power Island Princess' macadamia nut processing facility on the company's 1,100-acre orchard at Keaau on the Big Island. The orchard, home to 110,000 macadamia nut trees, also uses sustainable soil management and pruning techniques.

The new solar PV array should generate 14,730 kilowatt-hours or energy per month, offsetting about 86 percent of the processing facility's electricity, which is used to slow-dry, crack, sort and roast nearly 30,000 pounds of macadamia nuts a day. Peak harvesting season is from August to March.

That results in nearly $62,000 in savings a year (and keeps 288 barrels of oil from being imported to Hawaii).

That's something to think about while munching Island Princess' macadamia nut caramel popcorn, chocolate covered macadamia nuts, honey roasted macadamia nuts and more.

Island Princess joins other businesses that including Costco Kailua-Kona, Wal-Mart, Kona Commons, Y. Hata, Tori Richard and others in going solar.

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Beach, invasive species cleanups

July 5th, 2012
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ocean2

The weather was beautiful for the 4th of July and we enjoyed picnics, barbecues and the beach — but let's remember that what we leave behind can have harmful consequences. I'm talking about plastic bottle caps, plastic toys and litter left behind — let's make sure that plastic litter doesn't end up in our ocean.

Two events are coming up next Saturday that you can help participate in to help our aina.

* Sandy Beach Cleanup: From 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, July 14, RevoluSun and the Surfrider Foundation invite the public to participate in a beach clean-up at Sandy Beach. Enjoy a free lunch afterwards hosted by solar company RevoluSun. Look for the tents in the park between the lifeguard stand and shower. Call Fabian Toribo at 721-0012 on the day of the cleanup with questions.

* Invasive species cleanup: From 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 14, help the Oahu Invasive Species Club with their monthly removal of harmful invasive plants at the Lyon Arboretum. Volunteers will be removing two invasive shrub species, Ardisia virens and Ardisia sieboldii, from the grounds of the arboretum to prevent them from spreading into the native forests at higher elevations. The Lyon Arboretum is at 3860 Manoa Rd. Contact OISC to RSVP or to get more information at 286-4616 or oisc@hawaii.edu.