Archive for December, 2014

Young humpback whale disentangled

By
December 30th, 2014



 

Humpback whale with entanglement. Courtesy of J. Moore, NOAA Hawaiian Whale National Marine Sanctuary MMHSRP Permit #932-1905.

Humpback whale with entanglement. Courtesy of J. Moore, NOAA Hawaiian Whale National Marine Sanctuary. MMHSRP Permit #932-1905.

The Hawaiian islands humpback whale season is here, and with it, the first disentanglement of a juvenile off the shores of Kihei, Maui on Dec. 10, the first of the 2014-2015 season.

NOAA's Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program team was able to free the young, entangled whale earlier this month using knives on a long pole and a cutting grapple. The whale had multiple wraps of heavy gauge, red monofilament longline wrapped around its tail, which caused wounds, and trailing gear.

Most of the gear was successfully removed — not an easy task at all when dealing with a 30-foot whale.

The disentanglement was the result of teamwork — Maui County Ocean Safety Life Guards made the initial report after the whale was sighted by a stand-up boarder. They monitored the 30-foot whale until the authorized response team (made up of HIHWNMS, NOAA Corps, NOAA Fisheries, Hawaii Wildlife Fund) arrived aboard the Kohola.

Whale season stretches from November to May (although the first humpback whale this year was spotted in mid-September off of west Kauai). As many as 10,000 humpback whales make the annual 3,000-mile trek from Alaska to Hawaii every winter to mate and nurse their calves.

The 2013-2014 humpback whale season (Nov. 1, 2013 to May 15, 2014) had the highest number of confirmed large whale entanglement reports of any season since 2002, with 21 reports received, representing at least 13 different animals. It could be the result of more reporting, according to response coordinator Ed Lyman.

"Everyone is pitching in," he said. "We have a great, cohesive network with tour boat operators, fishermen, everyone's helping out and calling in."

If you see an entangled or distressed whale, please call the NOAA Fisheries Hotline at 888-256-9840 or radio the U.S. Coast Guard on channel 16. Federal regulations require maintaining 100 yards of distance in or on the water, and 1,000 feet from an aircraft.

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Year 2014 in eco-retrospective

By
December 26th, 2014



 

Illustration courtesy of Surfrider.

Illustration courtesy of Surfrider.

It was a year of highs, and a year of lows for the environment. There were several milestones, and there remain many unknowns for the upcoming year of 2015. Below is a summary of the markers for the year 2014, as I saw it.

1. Plastic overload. The year 2014 was the year of plastic, as has been the case in previous years. This year, the alarm is at an all-time high. A new study published in December by the scientific journal, PLOS ONE, reported that an estimated 270,000 tons of plastic (enough to fill more than 38,500 garbage trucks) is floating in the world's ocean, and that's only the plastic that's on the surface, not the ocean floor. Not only that, but the plastic breaks down into more than 5 trillion pieces. The impacts of all this plastic in our oceans as well as the food chain (including the fish and seafood we eat) are still unknown. Read the AP story posted Dec. 13, 2014 at staradvertiser.com.

2. Plastic-bag free. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed Bill 38 in September, officially banning retailers from distributing plastic carryout bags, including biodegradable bags. But the law doesn't go into effect until July 1, 2015. With that in place, Oahu joins Maui, Kauai and the Big Island in banning plastic bags at checkout. Apparently, the reaction among our readers was to start hoarding plastic bags (49 percent of our readers, based on our Big Q poll). In September, California was the first to implement a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery and convenience stores.

3. Monk seal hospital. Ke Kai Ola, the new Hawaiian monk seal hospital in Kona, held its grand opening and blessing on Sept. 2. The Marine Mammal Center's $3.2 million facility is dedicated to giving sick and injured Hawaiian monk seals a second chance. Four young, malnourished monk seals, Kulia, Ikaika, Hala‘i and Maka‘ala, were admitted on July 9 after being rescued from the northwestern Hawaiian islands.

Monk seal pup RF58 was found dead due to blunt force injuries, as a necropsy later revealed. She was one of two pups that had just survived a dog attack in July. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

Monk seal pup RF58 was found dead due to blunt force injuries, as a necropsy later revealed. She was one of two pups that had just survived a dog attack in July. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

4. Monk seal death. This year also marked a sad occurrence, with the suspicious death of a monk seal pup on the north shore of Kauai in November. Monk seal pup RF58 died from apparent blunt force trauma to the head. She was only about 4 to 5 months old, the daughter of Rocky, or RH58. An initial reward offer of $5,000 doubled to $10,000. In an unprecedented move, The Garden Island newspaper also decided to offer a $10,000 reward.

5. Expanded protection. President Barack Obama in September, through presidential proclamation, extended the protection zone around the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument by about 50 nautical miles. It was heralded as a victory by many conservation organizations in Hawaii who testified in favor of it.

6. HECO roller coaster. The Hawaii Electric Cos., the utility for the islands of Oahu, Maui and the Big Island, touched a major public nerve when its Aug. 26 plan was received by the Public Utilties Commission, proposing that the basic connection fees for customers in Honolulu be raised to a minimum of $55. On top of that, HECO attempted to drive a wedge between solar and non-solar customers, blamed its aging grid problems on solar PV customers and asked that new solar customers pay additional fees to connect. This came at a time when more than 3,500 solar PV customers were still waiting, from 9 months to a year, to get connected. Even DBEDT criticized the utility for putting its own profits above public interest while continuing to adhere to an outdated business model. Then in December HEI announced Florida-based NextEra would acquire the company for $4.3 billion, pending approval by the PUC. It's unknown how NextEra will treat individual solar PV customers. Let's just hope that battery storage systems become more affordable in coming years so that customers who want to get solar PV can do so, without worrying about the utility's grid.

7. Solar. It was not a good year for the solar industry in Hawaii. As reported in the Star-Advertiser business section, roof solar permits issued in Honolulu fell by 50 percent. Only 520 permits were issued by the city last month compared to 1,040 in November 2013 despite the availability of both state and federal tax credits (the federal tax credit is set to expire Dec. 31, 2016). Looking at the overall picture, though, the Hawaii State Energy Office noted that distributed renewable energy system installations increased significantly from 12,560 in 2012 to 18,316  in 2013. At the end of the year, the cumulative number of systems statewide totaled 40,717 with a total capacity of 253.5 Megawatt (MW). The state also ranked first in energy performance contracting in the nation with an investment of $235.74 per capita, and earned a third, consecutive Race to the Top award from the Energy Services Coalition in 2014.

8. Bronze for bikes. Honolulu earned its first bronze as a bicycle-friendly city from the League of American Bicyclists. Honolulu is the first municipality in Hawaii to achieve the bronze. Bicycle activists say Honolulu made strides in five areas, including engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation. They also laud the new King St. Cycle Track as a big step forward.

9.  Invasive species. From downed albizia trees on the Big Island to little fire ants and coconut rhinoceros beetles, the year 2014 was a year to monitor potentially destructive invasive species. The state department of agriculture does the best that it can on a meager budget. The albizia trees got plenty of attention during tropical storm Iselle, when they fell like a row of matchsticks and downed power lines. The little fire ants made their way to Mililani Mauka. The latest coconut rhino beetle, previously discovered around Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam,  was found in a trap at Kakaako Waterfront Park. Add to the list, a coconut crab in Salt Lake, and an emu on the Big Island.

10. Electric Vehicles. The number of people driving electric vehicles in Hawaii continues to grow. As of October 2014, DBEDT estimated the number of passenger electric vehicles in the state was 3,026, up 54.5 percent, from 1,068 from the same month a year ago. More charging stations are also popping up around the isles. Volta just announced two free charging stations outside of Whole Foods Market in Kahului, Maui.

Posted in Biking, electric cars, Energy, Green events, Hawaiian monk seals, Plastic | Comments Off on Year 2014 in eco-retrospective

Green gift guide

By
December 8th, 2014



Foundwood cutting boards are handmade locally from reclaimed woods by Jen Homcy in the backyard of her Haleiwa home. Star-Advertiser photo.

Foundwood cutting boards are handmade locally from reclaimed woods by Jen Homcy in the backyard of her Haleiwa home. Star-Advertiser photo.

It's that time of year again. Time for gift-giving, which results in the busiest shopping season of the year. It's also a time of high consumption and too-much-stuff-we-don't-really-need-itis. The volume of household waste in the United States generally increases 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.

Instead of participating in the Black Friday frenzy (thank goodness, it's over), think of how you can 1) reduce packaging 2) reduce shipping by buying local or 3) give a gift that supports the earth or the concept of reusing and recycling. The Center for a New American Dream also offers tips on how to simplify the holidays. Or check out these 12 tips from the Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation.

Below is a list of eco-friendly, Hawaii gift ideas for your loved ones this holiday season.

FOUNDWOOD CUTTING BOARDS

When searching for a one-of-a-kind item, look no farther than an heirloom cutting or serving board from Foundwood, a small woodworking shop created by Haleiwa resident Jen Homcy. Each of the beautiful boards is unique in shape and grain, personally shaped by Homcy, who carries on the legacy of her late father through the business. All are made exclusively from salvaged woods in Hawaii, including mango, monkeypod, koa and milo. What struck me about them is their organic, natural forms, which follow the flow of the grain, highlighting the raw beauty of the wood. These boards are smooth and very solid (you can tell by the weight when you hold them). Choose from a small, heart-shaped board made from monkeypod or an oblong rectangle made from beautiful, dark milo wood. Prices range from about $46 to $95. Find Homcy’s boards at the Kailua Town Farmers Market (she’s there on the first and third Sundays, 8:30 a.m. to noon), Nohea Gallery at Ward Warehouse and Owens & Co. in Chinatown. You can also find her at www.etsy.com/shop/FOUNDWOODworking.

GIFT OF FOOD, CSA SUBSCRIPTION

Gifts of candies, cookies and food are always nice, but how about a CSA? A Community Supported Agriculture subscription that will deliver locally grown produce on a monthly basis. There are several to choose from in Hawaii, now — from Honolulu Farms to MA‘O Farms, Just Add Water, Oahu Fresh and Waihuena Farm on the North Shore, all offer CSAs.

THE GREEN HOUSE HOLIDAY GIFTS

Craft fairs abound during this time of year in Hawaii and are a great place to support local artisans and artists. More specifically, The Green House's holiday gift extragavanza from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13 this year offers plenty of handmade goods that are also green, including natural cleaning products, decoupaged bottles, herbal vinegars, bath salts from herbs harvested from the garden and hard-to-find plants. Visit www.thegreenhousehawaii.com to find directions. Call 524-8427 for more information.

ADOPT A WILD ANIMAL, SIERRA CLUB

The Sierra Club's Adopt a Wild Animal program gives you the opportunity to help some of America's most vulnerable wildlife while offering a cuddly gift to a family member. Choose from a plush Polar Bear, Harbor Seal, Sea Turtle, Black Bear, Grey Wolf,  Mountain Lion or more. New this year are a Sea Otter and Manatee. For $39, you get a plush animal, sticker, plus booklet that offers information about the animal, an adoption certificate, fun animal facts, map of American wildlife and letter of recognition. For $79, you also get an 1892-style Sierra Club knapsack. For $129, you get a plush puppet and the rest. Shipping is free. Visit sierraclub.org to learn more.

SierraWildAnimal

but offers you the satisfaction of knowing you are helping America's vulnerable wildlife long after the gift has been opened, according to the Sierra Club.

THE MARINE MAMMAL CENTER

The Marine Mammal Center, which  just opened the new monk seal hospital in Kona, also offers an amazingly diverse selection of gifts for him, for her and for kids online. You can adopt a seal or purchase books, cards, DVDs, jewelry, handcrafted soaps and organic T-shirts to support their work. The center is based in Sausalito, Calif., north of San Francisco.

GIFTS OF NATURE, THE NATURE CONSERVANCY

The Nature Conservancy in Hawaii, unfortunately, no longer offers logo items online, but it does offer you the opportunity to give a "gift of nature" this holiday season. You can adopt an acre on someone's behalf, make a tribute gift, give the gift of membership (specifically for Hawaii) ranging from a minimum of $25 to $500 or more, with a special e-card sent to the recipient. Visit www.nature.org.

REUSABLE BAGS

Wrap your gift in a reusable shopping bag or tote which itself is a gift — and can be used throughout the year. It may come in handy when Honolulu's new law banning single-use takeout plastic bags goes into effect in July 2015. Some brands with beautiful designs include envirosax, ecolicious (based in Hawaii) and chicobags.

This canvas tote from Ecolicious Hawaii comes with an eco-friendly saying. The mission of Ecolicious is to reduce the use of plastic bags in Hawaii. Photo from ecolicious.com.

This canvas tote from Ecolicious Hawaii comes with an eco-friendly saying. The mission of Ecolicious is to reduce the use of plastic bags in Hawaii. Photo from ecolicious.com.

Hallelujah! Solar-powered church

By
December 6th, 2014



Newly installed solar photovoltaic system at Central  Union Church in Honolulu. Unveiling and celebration will take place after the 9 a.m. service on Sunday, Dec. 7. Photo courtesy Central Union Church.

Newly installed solar photovoltaic system at Central Union Church in Honolulu. Unveiling and celebration will take place after the 9 a.m. service on Sunday, Dec. 7. Photo courtesy Central Union Church.

Central Union Church in Honolulu is unveiling its solar photovoltaic system at a celebration at 10:15 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7.

The church, through Distributed Energy Partners, installed 336 Sun Power 345-watt panels on to the Women's Building and Parrish Hall on its campus. The panels are expected to produce 179,318 kilowatt hours of electricity each year, saving the church about a third of its electricity costs.

That translates to a reduction of 254,273 pounds of carbon emissions, 445 barrels of oil and 14,590 pounds of nitrous oxide pollution.

There will be a ribbon cutting, followed by a short presentation and tour of how the solar panels work.

In case you didn't know it, there is actually a certification for cool congregations, awarded by a group called Interfaith Power & Light, which says its mission is to be "faithful stewards of Creation by responding to global warming through the promotion of energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy."

Central Union Church became one of 20 churches nationwide to be recognized as a Certified Cool Congregation in the summer. It's cool to see churches taking an active role in sustainability.

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Monk seal pup RF58

By
December 4th, 2014



 

Rocky (RH58) and her pup (RF58) at Waipake Beach, Kauai. The pup was found dead by officials, with apparent blunt force trauma to its head last week. Photo by Jamie Thornton/NOAA.

Rocky (RH58) and her pup (RF58) at Waipake Beach, Kauai. The pup was found dead, with blunt trauma to its head last Sunday. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

It's with great sadness that we mark the end of 2014 with the suspicious death of a Hawaiian monk seal pup on the northeast coast of Kauai.

Female pup seal RF58, died from apparent blunt force trauma to the head at a beach in Anahola on Sunday, Nov. 30. She was only an estimated 4 to 5 months old. The pup was  the daughter of Rocky (RH58) who spends most of her time on Oahu. Both had recently survived a dog attack on the north shore of Kauai in July — RF58 was one of two pups that recovered from that attack.

"What a sad day for all our volunteers who worked so hard in keeping track of all the seals out there on Kauai," said Barbara Billand, a volunteer for the Monk Seal Foundation on Oahu, in an e-mail. "I don't know why anyone would harm these poor pups. They are defenseless...vulnerable. All they are trying to do is survive."

Billand recalls having the opportunity to see RF58 as a newborn pup on Kauai back in June, when she was still with Rocky. She considers that day as a gift, as she witnessed RF58 struggle with some waves and then catch up to Rocky.

"What a great feeling of joy," she said.

"She was a beautiful, healthy little girl," said Billand. "May she rest in peace."

The news of the seal pup's death, announced Tuesday by NOAA and DLNR, is the first one due to suspicious circumstances this year. The last suspicious death of a Hawaiian monk seal was in April 2012, also on Kauai. From November 2011 to April 2012, four seals were found dead under suspicious circumstances on Kauai and Molokai.

An initial reward of $5,000 has been doubled to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for this latest monk seal death. The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai is also offering a $10,000 reward, which was announced Friday.

Monk seal pup RF58 was found dead due to blunt force injuries, as a necropsy later revealed. She was one of two pups that had just survived a dog attack in July. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

Monk seal pup RF58 was found dead due to blunt force injuries to her head, and internal bleeding, a necropsy later revealed. She was one of two pups that had just survived a dog attack in July. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

I can't imagine why anyone would want to hurt a Hawaiian monk seal pup — out of viciousness or just for sport. It shows a real lack of respect for nature, and for life.

Hawaiian monk seals are a critically endangered species protected under both state and federal laws. Only an estimated 1,100 remain in the wild. Most reside in the Northwestern Hawaiian islands, but a growing number, about 200, live in and around the main Hawaiian islands. They have a lifespan of 25 to 30 years.

Many, like Rocky, also travel back and forth. Rocky travels to Kauai to give birth to monk seal pups — when the pups wean, mom leaves. The loss of a female monk seal is a blow to the survival of the species, since they are the ones that produce new pups.

Killing a Hawaiian monk seal is considered a Class C felony, with violators facing fines up to $50,000 and five years in prison.

RF58 was observed near her birthplace less than 24 hours before she was found dead, in good health and behaving normally.

A confidential hotline is available at 1-855-DLNR-TIP or 643-DLNR.

Rest in peace, RF58. You will not be forgotten.

RF58 on day of birth taken by Gary Langley

Photo of RF58 on day of birth taken by Gary Langley.

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