Archive for March, 2016

Earth Day Cleanup in Nalo

March 21st, 2016


Last year, Dr. Beach, or Stephen P. Leatherman, a professor at Florida International University, listed Waimanalo Beach Park on Oahu as No. 1 on his list of Top 10 Beaches in America.

He praised Waimanalo as a great beach for its soft, white sands, which extend for more than five miles. He mentioned the turquoise waters and shade of ironwood trees.

Of course, he made no mention of the stinging Portuguese man-o-war that land on the shoreline on windy days, nor the huge amount of marine debris that this part of the island seems to comb in from the reef in great quantities.

Nevertheless, Waimanalo Beach Park is slated for some "malama" as Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii organizes a beach cleanup and Earth Day Festival from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 30.

The new Education Station , a mobile classroom made from a recycled shipping container, will be on hand, along with live entertainment, games and more.

This sand sifter by Kailua Beach Adventures won last year's competition.

This sand sifter by Kailua Beach Adventures won last year's competition.

Sustainable Coastlines also brings back the Ultimate Sand Sifter Competition, which encourages community members to create an apparatus that removes microplastic marine debris from the sand. Finalists from each age division will be invited to build and demonstrate their sifter at the final challenge on April 30. Winners get a cash prize of $1,000.

"The goal of the sand sifter competition is to foster out-of-the-box thinking for removing the bite-size plastics that harm fish and seabirds," said SCH executive director Kahi Pacarro. "We expect to see some of the most innovative designs compete on Earth day, and look forward to the positive impact that this competition will have on the coastlines and community."

Visit to learn more.


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Humpback whales in our midst

March 14th, 2016

Photo of humpback whale and mom. Courtesy J. Moore – HIHWNMS/ NOAA Permit # 15240

Photo of humpback whale and mom. Courtesy J. Moore – HIHWNMS/ NOAA Permit # 15240

We admire them from a distance and have studied them for more than 30 years, yet they remain a mystery.

Despite a late arrival, the humpback whales are back in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Sanctuary, here to mate and nurse their calves in the warmer and shallower waters of the islands. While scientists have gained a lot of knowledge about whale biology and behavior, they have never witnessed the humpback whales in the act of mating.

Drone footage recently captured a mother humpback whale "tail-sailing," or basically doing a headstand in the ocean with its tail out of the water, catching the wind like a sail. The "tail-sailing" is common among southern right whales, but has rarely been documented among humpback whales.

The footage was captured during a two-week study by the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries' Collaborative Center for Unmanned Technology, which also used drones to conduct health assessments of the whales from a closer distance.

Volunteers continue to count sightings of the humpback whales from the shores of Kauai, Oahu and the Big Island on the last day of the month in January, February and March. As featured in today's Green Leaf column, some of these volunteers, like June Kawamata, are dedicated citizen scientists. Kawamata, a retired oordinator from Kailua High School's cafeteria, served as an Ocean Count site leader at Lanai Lookout for 20 years. She still heads out when she can, out of a love for the whales.

One more count is scheduled for March 26. If interested, visit

Boaters are also reminded to be vigilant during humpback whale season, which generally runs from November through May in Hawaii. Mariners are asked to report any collisions with whales, or injured or entangled whales to NOAA's 24-hour hotline at 1-888-256-9840.

Humpback whale breaching. 2011. Courtesy Ed Lyman – HIHWNMS/ NOAA Permit # 14682

Humpback whale breaching. 2011. Courtesy Ed Lyman – HIHWNMS/ NOAA Permit # 14682

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Calabash & Cooks

March 9th, 2016

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The Malama Learning Center's annual Calabash & Cooks fundraiser takes place from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 12 at Kapolei High School.

Professional chefs from Roy's Ko Olina, Firehouse, La‘ela‘e and Pono Plates will be serving up some dishes, along with student chefs from six different public high schools — Campbell, Kapolei, Moanalua, Radford, Waianae and Waipahu.

It's the third annual event for the Malama Learning Center, a non-profit which works to educate the public about sustainable, healthy living. Proceeds benefit the center and its activities, which include site restoration projects at Piliokahe Beach Park, Kalaeloa and Nanakuli wetlands. The center also encourages school and community gardens, programs for youth and hands-on workshops on worm composting.

"This year Calabash & Cooks is really going back to its roots and focusing on the main ingredient of our organization – our children," said Pauline Sato, executive director of Malama Learning Center. "By putting the students front and center we are empowering them to create something special that brings together all the knowledge they've learned throughout the year in dishes that celebrate local, sustainable products."

Featured dishes this year will include Campbell High School's signature appetizer of kalua pork won tons with island style salsa and Kapolei High's award-winning pineapple-banana-lilikoi cobbler with ice cream.

Every dish will have at least four to six locally grown or sourced ingredients. A silent auction, live entertainment and country store will also take place.

Tickets start at $40 ($20 for keiki 10 and under; $25 for students and $75 for VIP). Purchase tickets online at


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Racing Extinction

March 7th, 2016

Academy Award-winning film director Louie Psihoyos exposes the underground world of the endangered species trade in his new film, "Racing Extinction," which was screened for a Honolulu audience on Friday evening.

The director of "The Cove," which exposed the annual dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan, and his team from the Oceanic Preservation Society focus this time on the underground market of shark finning in China and covert offering of whale meat at The Hump, a now closed-down sushi restaurant in Santa Monica, Calif.

Footage includes the precious clip of the last (and now extinct) male ‘o‘o bird singing for a female on Kauai, which is stored in the archives of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The Grasshopper Sparrow may be next to go extinct.

Vulcan Productions and the Hawaii Wildlife Coalition hosted the free screening on Friday evening at Blaisdell Concert Hall in celebration of World Wildlife Day.

"Each year about one in a million species should expire naturally," said Stuart Pimm, conservation ecologist from Duke University in the film. "In the next few decades, we'll be driving species to extinction a thousand times faster than they should be."

In 100 years or so, we could lose up to 50 percent of all species on earth, according to the film. No surprise, humans are the driving force of this mass extinction.

The film focuses heavily on the shark finning and exotic animal trade in China. It also looks at the killing of manta rays in Lamakera, a remote fishing village in Indonesia, for their gills, which are being touted as a Traditional Chinese Medicine cure.

While "Racing Extinction" covers a broad swathe, addressing a range of issues from ocean acidification to carbon emissions and their impact on the earth, it does not delve into the world of elephant and rhino poaching in Africa or other parts of the world.

It offers beautiful, underwater footage of blue whales, dolphins, whale sharks, hammerhead sharks and manta rays.

After the screening, actress Kristin Bauer van Straten moderated a panel including race car driver Leilani Munter (whose mother is from Kona and who is in the film), Jeffrey Flocken, North America regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Elly Pepper, policy advocate of the Land & Wildlife Program for the Natural Resources Defense Council.


Actress Kristin Bauer van Straten moderates the panel discussion following the film's screening at Blaisdell Concert Hall with race car driver and environmental activist Leilani Munter, Jeffrey Flocken of IFAW and Elly Pepper of NRDC. An endangered Hawaiian monk seal is on the screen behind them. Seals are not featured in the film.

Hawaii is the third largest market for ivory in the U.S., behind New York and California, according to a brochure from the Conservation Council for Hawai‘i. The latter two states now have laws in place.

The council urged support for HB2502 and SB2647, which would prohibit the trafficking of any part of protected animal species in Hawaii, including any species of elephant, rhinoceros, tiger, great ape, Hawaiian monk seal, shark, ray, sea turtle, walrus, narwhal, whale, lion, pangolin, cheetah and more. For the full list, see the bill.

The bill mentions that Hawaii, as host of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's World Conservation Congress in September, should demonstrate leadership in endangered species protection.

A House vote on HB2502 is scheduled for Tuesday.

Despite the gruesome discoveries, the film concludes with a message of hope that we can save animals from going extinct.

"If we all lose hope there is no hope," said Jane Goodall, who is seen in the film, releasing a chimpanzee back into the wild. "Without hope, people fall into apathy. There's still a lot left worth fighting for."

"Racing Extinction" was broadcast on The Discovery Channel on Dec. 2, but is also available on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.

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Saving the ‘ohi‘a

March 3rd, 2016

The ‘ohi‘a lehua is in trouble due to a fungal infestation called "Rapid Ohia Death." UH Mano's Lyon Arboretum has launchd a GoFundMe campaign to collect and bank ‘ohi‘a seeds. Photo courtesy UH.

The ‘ohi‘a lehua is in trouble due to a fungal infestation called "Rapid Ohia Death." UH Manoa's Lyon Arboretum launched a GoFundMe campaign to collect and bank ‘ohi‘a seeds to preserve them for future forest restoration. Photo courtesy UH.

In an effort to save the ‘ohi‘a lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha), the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa's Lyon Arboretum launched a GoFundMe campaign last month.

The goal is to raise $35,000 to help scientists collect and bank ‘ohi‘a seeds for the arboretum's Seed Conservation Laboratory. As of this week, roughly three-fourths of the goal has been reached.

The native ‘ohi‘a is under threat by a fungal infestation, called Rapid ‘Ohi‘a Death, that has decimated more than 34,000 acres of the ‘ohi‘a forest on the Big Island. Across the state, the ‘ohi‘a trees occupy about 865,000 acres.

Once an individual tree is infected, it dies within a matter of weeks. Its leaves turn brown and fall off, leaving a skeleton behind. Hundreds of thousands of trees have been infected by the blight, and there is no known treatment for it.

Once infected, the ‘ohi‘a lehua die within weeks. Leaves turn brown and fall off, leaving a skeleton behind. Courtesy UH.

Once infected, the ‘ohi‘a lehua die within weeks. Leaves turn brown and fall off, leaving a skeleton behind. Courtesy UH.

Considered by many to be the most important tree in Hawaii, the ‘ohi‘a plays a central role in Hawaiian culture and mythology as well as in the state's forest ecology. Native birds and tree snails live and feed on them. Their canopy protects smaller trees and native shrubs, creating the watershed that recharges our water supply.

"There is an old Hawaiian proverbial saying, he ali‘i ka ‘aina, he haua ke kanaka, the land is chief and the people are its servants," said UH Hilo professor Kalena Silva. "And so we remember, that the ‘ohi‘a doesn't need us. We need it."

The ‘ohi‘a lehua are among the first plants to grow after a new lava flow. Courtesy UH.

The ‘ohi‘a lehua are among the first plants to grow after a new lava flow. Courtesy UH.

The Seed Conservation Laboratory has been storing native Hawaiian seeds for more than 20 years and currently banks more than 12 million seeds from over 500 native species. Marian Chau, lab manager, said the funds will help staff collect ‘ohi‘a seeds from at-risk areas of the Big Island as well as ‘ohi‘a seeds endemic to Oahu for long-term storage in the seed bank.

Visit to show some ‘ohi‘a love.

The rewards are as simple as a hug from the staff for a donation of $10 to a beautiful print of "A Dozen Lehua" by Joey Latsha for $100 or a private, docent-led tour of Lyon Arboretum and an OhiaLove T-Shirt for $1,000.

Related videos (courtesy University of Hawaii):

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