Archive for the ‘Conservation’ Category

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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Caring for Ka Iwi Coastline

January 22nd, 2016

Volunteer cleaning up along Ka Iwi Shoreline on Earth Day 2011. Star-Advertiser file photo.

Volunteer cleaning up along Ka Iwi Shoreline on Earth Day 2011. Star-Advertiser file photo.

The Trust for Public Land and Ka Iwi Coalition may have raised $500,000 to keep the Ka Iwi Scenic Shoreline protected from development last year. But how about the trash, pallets, nails — and destruction — left behind by careless bonfire revelers?

That's another issue that requires more than fundraising.

Tomorrow, starting at 8 a.m. (Jan. 23, 2016), volunteers from 808 Cleanups, Kaiser High School and other organizations in partnership with the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources will spend the morning cleaning up the debris and restoring it to its natural state by removing the fire rings.

To volunteer, you can register at or call Paul Balazs at 808-738-7954.

Pallet fire debris left behind by revelers at Ka Iwi have been a recurring issue for years. Just recently, some folks not only left behind a huge mess, but did significant damage to the native plants that conservationists had planted in the area, according the Michael Loftin, co-founder of 808 Cleanups.

Logs, debris and trash left behind by revelers at Ka Iwi Scenic Shoreline.

Logs, debris and trash left behind by revelers at Ka Iwi Scenic Shoreline.

Some volunteers from 808 Cleanups have regularly cleaned the site for the past year, hauling out the pallets and picking up the nails and pieces of glass that children and others could potentially step on. The destruction to the native plants is particularly disheartening.

"It's times like this where you take a few steps back," said Loftin, "and you realize we need to keep persisting with restoring it."

Coastal plants at Ka Iwi include naupaka kahakai, ‘ilima, pa‘u o hi‘iaka, ‘akulikuli, pohuehue, ‘ohai, uhaloa and more.

Photo by Robbe Ripp/ Courtesy Manoa Heritage Center.

Photo of ‘ilima by Robbe Ripp/ Courtesy Manoa Heritage Center.

Meet at Erma's (the Sandy Beach end) of the shoreline. Bring water, a hat and sunscreen. 808 Cleanups will be providing cleaning supplies for volunteers. Optional potluck lunch to follow. You can also email



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Every Kid in a Park Hawaii

November 12th, 2015


Every fourth-grader in Hawaii should have the opportunity to visit national parks under the Every Kid in a Park Program, thanks to a $100,000 donation for field trip grants from the Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation.

The Every Kid in a Park initiative, which President Barack Obama announced earlier this year as a way for young people to connect with the outdoors, allows every fourth-grader nationwide to obtain a free pass for entry to more than 2,000 federally  managed lands and waters nationwide for a year, starting Sept. 1, 2015.

"Thanks to Jack Johnson's generous support and commitment to conservation, Hawaii's fourth-graders will be able to visit the federal lands in their backyards," said Deputy Secretary Michael Connor in a press release. "Through new and innovative partnerships like the one with the Kokua Hawaii Foundation, we're helping as many fourth-graders as possible to get outside and build connections with their public lands and waters."

The Foundation, run by singer Jack Johnson and his wife, Kim Johnson, aims to reach all 17,000 fourth-grade students in the state of Hawaii. The partnership between the Foundation, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of the Interior's National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was announced at a celebration at James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge on Oahu's North Shore this morning.

James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, features wetland habitat that is home to four of Hawaii's endemic water birds, all of which are listed as endangered species. It is also a site where tons of marine debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch washes ashore.

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New home for chicks

November 4th, 2015


Endangered Petrel chick. Photo by Andre Raine/Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project.

Endangered Petrel chick. Photo by Andre Raine/Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project.

A total of 10 endangered Hawaiian Petrel chicks now have a new home at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on Kauai, thanks to humans who care.

The chicks were flown by helicopter from their montane nesting area to a new colony protected by a predator-proof fence at the refuge as part of a historic translocation project more than 30 years in the making, according to the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.

More than a dozen people were involved in the translocation as part of a collaboration between the American Bird Conservancy, DLNR, the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, Pacific Rim Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Early in the morning, two teams embarked on to the mountain peaks in the Hono O Na Pali Natural Area Reserve. They were dropped by helicopter so they could locate 10 nest burrows that DLNR had been monitoring throughout the breeding season — each with a large, healthy chick.

The chicks were carefully removed by hand, according to DLNR, and placed into pet carriers, then hiked to the tops of the peaks where helicopters picked them up. The chicks' holding boxes were even seat-belted to ensure their safety. They were flown to Princeville Airport where an animal care team assessed their health, then driven to the 7.8-acre Nikoku area at the Refuge, their new home.

The petrel chicks were carried by hand in carriers to a helicopter. Photo by Eric Venderwerf/Pacific Rim Conservation.

The petrel chicks were carried by hand in carriers to a helicopter. Photo by Eric Venderwerf/Pacific Rim Conservation.

Michael Mitchell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's acting Kauai National Wildlife Refuge complex project leader said the translocation will establish a new, predator-free colony of the endangered Hawaiian Petrel to help prevent the extirpation of the species from Kauai.

"Petrels, like many other native Hawaiian species, are facing tremendous challenges with shrinking habitat and the onslaught of invasive species," he said. "Translocating the birds to Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge ensures that this colony of birds will be protected for our children and our children's children."

Endangered Hawaiian Petrels, or ‘Ua‘u, are one of two seabird species endemic to the Hawaiian islands and found nowhere else on Earth. Their population decline is caused by introduced predators, including cats, rats and pigs, as well as collisions with man-made structures during their nocturnal flights from breeding colonies in the mountains to the ocean, where they search for food.

Petrel chicks imprint on their birth colony the first time they emerge from their burrows and see the night sky, and typically return to breed at the same colony as adults. So these chicks are expected to emerge from their next boxes and return to Nihoku as adults. They will be hand-fed a slurry of fish and squid and monitored until they are ready to leave their new nest burrows and fly out to sea.

Next, the state is hoping to translocate a colony of Newell's Shearwaters to predator-proof locations.

The petrel chicks at their new home. Photo by Ann Bell/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The petrel chicks at their new home. Photo by Ann Bell/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Related video courtesy Hawaii DLNR and American Bird Conservancy:

Hawaiian blessing of the chicks' new home at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge


Posted in Conservation, Endangered species | Comments Off on New home for chicks

Q&A Chipper Wichman

September 18th, 2015


Chipper Wichman. Courtesy photo.

Chipper Wichman. Courtesy photo.

Charles "Chipper" Wichman, president and Chief Executive Officer of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, believed that the IUCN World Conservation Congress could be hosted by the U.S. and more specifically, in Honolulu. Wichman played a leadership role in bringing the Congress here, an effort that started as early as 2009. Wichman currently serves as vice chair of the WCC Hawaii Host Committee's executive committee and vice chair of its program committee.

The Green Leaf had a conversation with Wichman about the upcoming Congress, which marks a milestone because it's the first time it will be held in the U.S. The summit is expected to bring 8,000 to 10,000 leaders (from government, businesses, academia, NGOs and unique indigenous communities) representing 160 nations around the globe to the Hawai‘i Convention Center from Sept. 1 to 10, with possible attendance by President Barack Obama, Prince William and the Prince of Monaco.

Held only once every four years, the Congress, which helps shape the direction of global sustainable development, also presents plenty of opportunities for Hawaii residents to get involved.

The Congress is expected to address topics ranging from climate change (on the heels of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, November to December) to watershed management, conservation of marine resources, renewable energy and endangered species. The theme is "Planet at the Crossroads."

The United States has 84 IUCN Member Organizations, eight of which are in Hawaii (including the NTBG). The U.S. Department of State will need to process quite a lot of visas, and the state of Hawaii's host committee needs to raise $13 million to support the event. Visit for updates.

Green Leaf: Where did the inspiration for bringing the Congress to Hawaii come from?

Wichman: We started talking about it right after the World Congress in Barcelona in 2008. It was actually a couple of colleagues of mine — Chris Dunn, director of Lyon Arboretum at the time, Penny Levin, who is involved in protecting indigenous crops...We thought, the world could learn a lot from visiting Hawaii. It would really put the fantastic work that's going on here on the world stage. Hawaii is a microcosm of all the issues the planet is facing in a very condensed and focused way because we live on islands. And the islands are engines of evolution...We're recognized as one of the world's unique regions. We're also recognized as an endangered species capital of the world...

GL: So this Congress is often described as the Olympics of conservation. Why?

W: The World Congress is an unbelievable event. To call it the Olympics of the conservation world is true. It's the only event that brings together delegates and participants at the cutting edge of conservation — thought leaders from 160 countries around the world...APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, which took place in Honolulu in 2011) is made up of 20 leading economies. This is 160 countries, not 20. So it's much bigger and much more diverse...

GL: So you feel Honolulu has a lot to offer the world in possible conservation solutions?

W: We have a lot of challenges here, and those are challenges everyone else in the world is facing. What's compelling is it's brought together indigenous knowledge, practices and pride, and combined with cutting-edge, western science, to create conservation programs that are community-based, which are much more powerful and effective than programs that don't involve indigenous communities. We're really at the cutting edge of those bio-conservation programs that are engaging cultural knowledge and practices and wisdom...

GL: What does Honolulu have to gain from the conference?

W: On the reciprocal side, we will be infused with ideas from people who are at the cutting edge in their part of the world. It's amazing to participate in one of these events — the exchange of ideas, practice, knowledge and connections made. The value of these personal interactions can't be replaced by online webinars. There's nothing that can replace the face to face personal meetings and relationships that take place in a venue like the World Conservation Congress...

One of my dreams (I refer to it as a Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is that the president of the U.S. and governor of Hawaii will stand up at the stage of the World Congress in front of all these people from around the world, and say, we recognize the importance of the biodiversity that exists in Hawaii. We recognize the importance of Hawaii and our Hawaii culture, and we are committed to creating a biosecurity plan that will protect Hawaii, that's as strong as any other biosecurity plan in the world.

In hosting it, all these people come to Hawaii and have a wonderful Congress, but if we haven't left a legacy behind us, then I feel we've missed the boat. I've been spending a lot of time focused on engaging our community to think about how to use this as an opportunity to create a legacy...I would never have undertaken this opportunity if I did not believe hosting this would not lead to a transformation in Hawaii.

GL: What kind of transformation?

W: I think that the majority of people in Hawaii, although they know the term 'conservation' and may know Hawaii has unique flora, most people in Hawaii don't truly understand the issues that we face. And this is a way of raising the profile of these issues so that the public can really understand it. Ultimately, if the public doesn't understand it, then we will never elect political leaders that have the will to make the right choices, and to put in place the kinds of regulations and laws we need to affect our environment. I see it as transformational in raising public awareness, in terms of engaging the hearts and minds of our students in Hawaii. I would love to see every student in Hawaii, kindergarten to 12th grade, and maybe even at the university level, be aware of this and be touched by it in some way...We're hoping we'll be able to find a philanthropist to say, 'I'm willing to sponsor all the school kids in Hawaii because I think this is so potentially transformative and inspiring'...If you can plant that seed of conservation, that's our future. Our children are our future. So I see the Congress as being potentially transformational, inspiring the next generation of leaders of our state...


Posted in climate change, Conservation, Endangered species, IUCN, IUCN World Conservation Congress | Comments Off on Q&A Chipper Wichman

World Conservation Congress Hawaii

August 25th, 2015


Several thousand leaders and decision-makers from government, business, academia and indigenous communities are gathering for the IUCN World Conservation Congress at the Hawai‘i Convention Center from Sept. 1 to 10, 2016. The theme of this year's conference, to be held for the first time in Hawaii (and the U.S.), is "Planet at the crossroads."

The Congress is divided into two parts – the Forum, which is open to the wider public, and the Members' Assembly, a global environmental parliament where member organizations discuss and vote on a wide range of issues that guide the IUCN work program and partnership initiatives. A call for contributions went out in June for any interested groups that want to host an event during the conference's Forum.

The Forum is where IUCN Members and partners can discuss cutting edge ideas with people from all over the world. The Congress is seeking hosts for 560 available slots — 135 workshops, 200 Knowledge cafe sessions, 200 poster sessions and 25 training courses. You have until Oct. 15 to submit your proposal. The Congress is only considering hosts that partner with at least one or two IUCN constituents, rather than a single organization, and is looking for events that engage the audience, rather than simply offer a series of "old school" PowerPoint presentations.

There are several options:

>> A Workshop, or 120-minute session that is participant-oriented with a professional facilitator.

>>  A Knowledge Cafe, or hosted roundtable discussion involving up to 12 people.

>> A Poster, which will be displayed during the entire Congress.

>> A Conservation Campus training session, which should be interactive and can involve up to 50 people.

Proposals must meet a number of criteria and be relevant to the theme and draft IUCN Programme for 2017-2020. Here's an outline with most of the information you need. Keep in mind that you'll be competing with organizations from around the globe for one of the slots, so it's pretty competitive. You can apply online.

There's also a link to other entries already submitted, which include a poster on "Protecting and Managing the Magnificent Marianas Trench Marine National Monument" and a workshop on "How to sell a conservation project."

Hawaii, as host for this conference, says Randall Tanaka, executive director of the WCC National Host Committee, has so much to offer in terms of knowledge in the world of conservation, whether it be watershed management issues, species survival or the challenges of sustainable development.

"I think the opportunity for Hawaii is we can provide some very unique solutions to the problems," he said. "It is truly amazing, some of the work that's been done in this state. What we learn from this conference, and what we have to share can become an intellectual export."

Also, if you are interested in hosting an excursion to support the mission of the Hawai‘i Host and Program Committees, visit this Google Docs link.

Posted in climate change, Conservation | Comments Off on World Conservation Congress Hawaii

Saving Haiku Stairs

August 12th, 2015

Haiku Stairs, also known as Stairway to Heaven, is expected to be dismantled by the Hawaii Board of Water Supply. A petition started by Friends of Haiku Stairs seeks to save it. Star-Advertiser file photo.

Haiku Stairs, also known as Stairway to Heaven, is expected to be dismantled by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply. A petition started by Friends of Haiku Stairs seeks to save it. Star-Advertiser 2001 file photo.

It's a darn shame.

We have this unique treasure on Oahu, and saving it is going to be a gargantuan effort, yet the powers that be do not want to make the effort. The Haiku Stairs, better known as "Stairway to Heaven," appear to be headed for dismantlement by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply.

The Friends of Haiku Stairs recently started a petition asking the Board of Water Supply to save the unique and historic stairs from destruction. There have been other petitions seeking to save the stairs before, including this one petitioning Sen. Mazie Hirono five months ago. That one received 3,438 supporters. This one has the most signatures, so far, with 4,135 supporters as of Wednesday. It just needs another 865 to reach its goal of 5,000.

In May, the Board of Water Supply's directors agreed to spend $500,000 to study how the stairs can be removed following a landslide that damaged a portion of the stairs earlier this year. It expressed interest in transferring ownership of the stairs to another entity. But the National Park Service isn't interested in taking over the stairs. Nor is the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

"What we want to do is not to spend that half a million," said Vernon Ansdell, president of Friends of Haiku Stairs. "I think by doing that, they [the Board of Water Supply] are implying that their goal is to remove the stairs. We want to try and convince them, with this petition, there is an enormous amount of support out there to preserve the stairs."

Honolulu City Councilman Ikaika Anderson, who once supported reopening the stairs, believes all options have been exhausted. A working group with all the various stakeholders and agencies was formed last summer. So far, no other government entity has stepped forward, expressing interest in taking over ownership of the stairs.

"I commend this group of people for coming forward and I understand their desire to open the stairs," said Anderson. "I share that desire, provided we can turn the stairs over to a government entity as required by the Board of Water, provided that we can also offer an area with controlled access and managed hiking. Really, I think that time frame has come and gone."

Residents in the neighborhood have been patient with trespassing hikers, he added.

"We need to give relief to the residents," he said. "And we need to do that sooner rather than later."

The stairs, which have been closed for 28 years, feature more than 3,900 stairs stretching about two miles up the Koolaus, which are accessible from the Kaneohe neighborhood. The U.S. Navy built the stairs during World War II as part of a communications network. People have been hiking it illegally. In 2014, the Star-Advertiser reported 135 citations issued for trespassing on Haiku Stairs, along with 100 warnings and six arrests.

Haiku Stairs, better known as the Stairway to Heaven, is officially closed and off limits. Photo courtesy Friends of Haiku Stairs.

Haiku Stairs, better known as the Stairway to Heaven, is officially closed and off limits. Photo courtesy Friends of Haiku Stairs.

The petition, which the Friends plan to present at a board meeting Aug. 24, describes the stairs as "legendary to hikers and climbing enthusiasts from all over the world, offering panoramic views of Oahu and a valuable opportunity to study Hawaiian history, culture, as well as native plant and animal life."

With managed access, and everyone working together to address issues of concern, Ansdell said it is possible to keep the stairs open.

"Many years ago, when the U.S. Coast Guard were in control of the stairs," he said, "people would go up into the valley, park, sign waivers, climb the stairs, come down and drive off again. It worked incredibly well. It didn't go through the neighborhood and interfere with anyone in that neighborhood."

Up to two years ago, the Friends used to go up the stairs to remove invasive species. The group offered to fix the damage that resulted from the landslide, according to Ansdell. But the Board of Water Supply declined the offer.

"We think the damage is very superficial," he said. "We're 100 percent sure it's just damage to the railings. We don't think it would cost that much, and we would raise the funds to do it."

The stairs also provide an unparalleled cultural and historical experience, he said. There are native Hawaiian plants, including rare and endangered species at the summit confirmed by experts from Bishop Museum. He said the stairs, with railings, are also safe as long as people use common sense and do not stray off the steps.

"The views are spectacular," said Ansdell. "When you're on the stairs, the whole valley and ahupua‘a opens up...When you get to the summit, it's almost spiritual."

Clearly, the public is interested in keeping the stairs open. From people who have proposed marriage on the steps to a veteran who used the steps for rehab after recovering from an injury, the petition has struck a chord. It's been signed by people from throughout Hawaii as well as the U.S. and globe.

"I'm very pleased with the response," said Ansdell. "I think if nothing else, it shows that there is support. When you read it, you see the passion people have for the stairs."

Here's a sampling of comments from those who signed the petition:

"Because some cultural wonders must be preserved."

Chris Gray, Kailua, Hawaii

"If Zion can have Angel's Landing, and Yosemite can have Half Dome, Hawaii should have Haiku Stairs!!!"

Greg Parsons of Danvers, Mass.

"As someone who has a strong appreciation for nature and the outdoors, which is an idea that the Hawaiian islands exemplify, I see no good reason to destroy something that was restored to give appreciation to the nature and beauty that the islands have to offer. The risks are inherent, and people have have already said that they're willing to pay for access. But removing the stairs entirely is just an easy way out to a problem that can be solved by people coming together."

Ken McCann of Vail. Colo.

"It's part of our history in Hawaii. It's  better to have it open, regulated, with warnings than closed, unregulated, and o warnings about the danger that you are going into."

Gernell Yamada, Honolulu

With enough public will, maybe we could save these stairs for future generations to come. The petition urges the Board of Water Supply to work with stakeholders to create a managed access plan, solve illegal hiking problems and save the stairs.

If you are interested in once again hiking the stairs, sign the petition. To learn more about Friends of Haiku Stairs, visit their Facebook page.

Photo courtesy Friends of Haiku Stairs.

Photo courtesy Friends of Haiku Stairs.

Conservation Hilo

August 6th, 2015

Opening day ceremony at the Hawai‘i Conservation Conference in Hilo. Photos courtesy Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance.

Opening day ceremony at the Hawai‘i Conservation Conference in Hilo. Photos courtesy Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance.

Aloha Hilo!

The 23rd annual Hawai‘i Conservation Conference kicked off on Monday, with a move to Hilo this year. More than 1,200 people attended from across the isles as well as the U.S. mainland. The conference theme this year was "Hanohano Hawai‘i Kuauli: Celebrating Collaboration and Wisdom Across Hawai‘i's Ecosystems." It concludes on Thursday.

I think the move to Hilo was a great idea this year. After all, Hilo is home to the Merrie Monarch Festival as well as some of the most beautiful, precious lands and habitats for native plants and birds.

Topics covered at the conference range from a general session on birds and bats to the albizia invasion across Hawaii's physical, political and economic landscapes. There was also a session called "Connecting Culture and Science," moderated by Sam Ohu Gon.

Panoramic of the audience listening to keynote speaker Pua Kanahele on opening day. Photos courtesy Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance.

Panoramic of the audience listening to keynote speaker Pua Kanahele on opening day. Photos courtesy Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance.


>> The conference opened with a Kipaepae Ka Mauli Kuauli, its official opening ceremony on Monday evening. Kipaepae is translated as "stepping-stones for entering a house." Aunty Pualani Kanaka‘ole Kanahele was the opening keynote speaker.

>> Conference attendees participated in various huaka‘i, including an excursion to one of Hawaii's largest, remaining dry forest on the slopes of Mauna Kea.  The forest is home to the critically endangered palila bird. Conservationists are working to restore the forest through collaborative partnerships.

>> A special, day-long exhibition on Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument on Wednesday. Keynote speaker in the morning was Kamana Beamer.

>> As usual, the conference offered a Community Connections Day on Wednesday, which is open and free to the community. There were live performances by Paula Fuga and Kainani Kahaunaele, along with poster presentations, a special talk story with the Polynesian Voyaging Society and Kaimana Barcarse. Chefs Mark "Gooch" Noguchi and Top Chef finalist Sheldon Simeon also offered a collaboration dinner, along with Aloha Monday's, Moon + Turtle and Sweet Cane Cafe.

>> An IUCN workshop was held Thursday morning. The IUCN World Conservation Congress, themed "Planet at the Crossroads" is scheduled for Oahu Sept. 1 to 10, 2016. Keynote speakers were Sen. Brian Schatz (via video) and Suzanne Case, chair of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The Hawaii Conservation Conference started Monday and concluded Thursday in Hilo. Photo courtesy Hawaii Conservation Alliance.

The Hawaii Conservation Conference started Monday and concluded Thursday in Hilo. Photo courtesy Hawaii Conservation Alliance.

Q&A Kahi Pacarro

June 18th, 2015

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii director Kahi Pacarro upon his return from a 21-day expedition to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands with NOAA to pick up terrestrial marine debris and plastics. Photo by Bruce Asato.

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii director Kahi Pacarro upon his return from a 21-day expedition to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands with NOAA to pick up terrestrial marine debris and plastics. Photo by Bruce Asato.

Upon his June 8 return from a 21-day mission to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, also known as Papahanaumokuakea, aboard the NOAA ship Hi‘ialakai, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii director Kahi Pacarro says he's hoping to return again to clear even more of it from those remote isles.

NOAA partnered with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii for a pilot project to pick up terrestrial marine debris and plastics from the beaches of Kure Atoll, Lisianski Island, Pearl and Hermes Atoll and French Frigate Shoals during three weeks in May and June. As part of the project, the types and sources of debris will be identified, along with an estimate of accumulation rates.

In total, the team hauled back about 5,000 pounds of debris — large pieces of plastic, buoys, and nets. Most of it will be recycled and used for an installation art piece, according to Pacarro.

The Green Leaf sat down for a Q&A with Kahi.

Q: How did you end up going on this trip with NOAA?

A: The Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program goes out every year and leaves as a full boat, drops off field teams and supplies and comes back with a barebones crew. They saw an opportunity, and said, why don't we start bringing back some of the marine debris on the way back? They thought of my organization because they've seen us get the work done and pick up marine debris versus just talking about it. That's kind of how it started.

Q: Was it a challenge?

A: For us, it was figuring out where the marine debris was coming from, how to put it on a small boat, how to get it from reef to boat, how to make sure it's stored safely, how to get it off the boat and into a storage facility...The NOAA marine debris program focuses on entanglement hazards, so that's going to be nets floating on nearshore waters, nets on shores and beaches, and those attached to reefs...Then there's the terrestrial plastic polluting the beach. That's the stuff the Monk Seal Research Program team has to walk by on a daily basis to check on the monk seals...So we picked up those piles, and ended up bringing back about 5,000 pounds of marine debris.

Crew removed nets from Papahanaumokuakea. Photo by Bruce Asato.

Crew removed nets from Papahanaumokuakea and hauled them back to Oahu aboard the Hi‘ialakai. Photo by Bruce Asato.

Q: What will you do with 5,000 pounds of that marine debris?

A: We'll be incorporating them into the state's largest marine debris art installation at Thomas Square (in time for) the 2016 IUCN (Sept. 1-10) conference. When completed, it will be recycled through our partnerships with Method and Parley for the Oceans. Whatever they can't take, ropes and what not, if we don't have a source for somebody to recycle it, it will go to our trash energy program...

Q: Since this was your first time out there, what was your first impression? What was the most interesting observation you made out there?

A: The first place we landed was Tern Island at French Frigate Shoals...There were so many birds. It was like stepping into a National Geographic television show...They're everywhere, and you have to look where you step because there are eggs everywhere. It's a very fragile ecosystem. One false step and you've killed a baby bird.

Q: What about the amount of marine debris out there?

A: What I saw was the dirtiest beach I'd ever been to, and that was on Laysan. It must have been accumulation of plastics since the invention of plastics. It was the dominant feature of the landscape. It outnumbered birds. The birds just live amongst it, and so do the [Hawaiian monk] seals, and so do the turtles. They live with this marine debris and they become dull to it just like society becomes dull to it. What we have to do is raise awareness...

Hawaiian monk seal lying among marine debris litter at French Frigate Shoals. Courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Hawaiian monk seal lying among marine debris litter at French Frigate Shoals. Courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

When we did our first beach cleanup, there were only eight of us cleaning this south section of Lisianski island, this thing was three or four football fields, and there was marine debris everywhere. There was no way eight of us were going to make a dent in this zone. We said, 'You know what? Let's just try.' Within six hours, we had that area completely clean... We just put out heads down, drank a lot of water and pt on a lot of sunscreen. It was really hot, but it was so rewarding...We created this technique, using old ropes to string up the [commercial fishing] buoys like they were a 200-pound lei, and like football players pulled them up oto the high tide line where they couldn't be easily washed away. Knowing we could up that much area with so few people gives you hope...

Q: Was it an eye-opener for you, even though you already deal with marine debris at your beach cleanups?

A: Yeah, definitely. I didn't expect there to be that much trash. Some key things that stuck out in my mind were the amount of commercial fishing gear that was out there...I saw multiple smart FADs (Fish Aggregating Devices) used in the commercial fishing industry...It's like a dome, it floats, has a solar panel, electronics within with sonar testers that can be calibrated to determine how many fish are also has GPS coordinates...We saw at least 100 FADs out there...We looked up these companies and their focus is on bluefin tuna. I eat so much tuna. I love spicy ahi donburi — now what am I supposed to do because I am contributing to this problem? It's a tough realization, yet I am contributing to this problem on a large-scale by firing up on spicy ahi donburi, unless it's coming from my local fisherman... It comes down to regulation, it also comes down to us as consumers...

Q: What type of marine debris did you find  most of out there?

A: I was expecting to find a lot of single-use plastic water bottles out there. The only bottles making it out there were bottles where the cap was left on. Every single bottle that we found out there had a cap on it...That means that billions of bottles that do make it into the ocean are sinking to the bottom and lining the ocean floor...The No. 1 trash items were from the hag fish and oyster industries...Hag fish traps and oyster spacers, then buoys...And we still found a lot of [plastic] straws, a lot of toothbrushes and a lot of razors, even deodorant.

This dead albatross, upon examination, has a belly full of plastics. Courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

This dead albatross, upon examination, has a belly full of plastics. Courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Q: How does this change your perspective on marine debris and your mission at Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii?

A: It strengthens our existing desire to clean more marine debris, increase recycling of marine debris using what's existing versus virgin products, along with being better consumers, and using the power of our wallets to effect change within our society. That transcends beyond marine debris and plastics. That goes into what you eat, what you eat it out of, energy, where you get your energy from...

Q: Will you return to Papahanaumokuakea next year?

A: I sure hope so...Potentially, next year what we'd like to do, is probably have one of us on the boat for the whole time. When it gets to Midway, have a crew of our own meet them there and come down as a team to exponentially increase the amount of marine debris we can pick up...


Sustainable Coastline Hawaii's next big event is its Magic Island & Ala Wai Boat Harbor Cleanup on Saturday, June 27. Check in time is 9:30 a.m., clean up time is 10 a.m. to noon. Free lunch will be available while supplies last.


Inspiring #808cleanups

May 11th, 2015

The original group of hikers behind 808 cleanups  beneath Koko Crater Arch.  Photo courtesy 808 Cleanups.

The original group of hikers behind 808 cleanups beneath Koko Crater Arch. 808 Cleanups founder Michael David Loftin, in red T-shirt, top. Photo courtesy 808 Cleanups.

While keeping tabs on breaking news stories, I've been wondering why there seem to have been so many hiking-related injuries and fatalities in recent months.

Some blame social media and the Internet for leading thrill-seekers and inexperienced hikers to unsanctioned trails that were formerly known to more experienced or knowledgeable hikers. Is it social media's fault? Is it today's quest to capture the coolest selfie, teetering on the edge of a mountain ridge? I don't know the answers. I know that plenty of experienced hikers from the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club have been going on some of these trails for years, without incident. Sometimes, I think it's just an unfortunate accident. No matter what, any hiking accident is tragic.

But social media can also be used in a positive way.

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources has taken the strategy of using social media to warn people of the dangers of hiking Sacred Falls with this video. Interestingly, landowner Kamahameha Schools took a different tactic, sending out "cease and desist" requests, according to this Hawaii News Now report, asking more than a dozen bloggers to stop promoting hiking trails on their properties. The resulting consequences are sad – Mariner's Ridge, one of my favorite hikes on Oahu (and the one where I met my husband), is now fenced off.

Today's column features a non-profit called 808 Cleanups, which was founded by a group of avid hikers who want to use social media for good.

Founder Michael David Loftin and his friends first became concerned when they found nature tagging below Koko Crater Arch. They decided to do something about it — clean it up, educate and encourage others to steward these beautiful places on Oahu.

The mission of 808 Cleanups is "to empower communities in restoring their natural environments through decentralized beach, graffiti, hiking trail and marine debris cleanups." Volunteers from 808 Cleanups are "striving to keep these areas beautiful for future generations" through an Adopt a Site program, education and political advocacy.

So, with a decentralized philosophy, anyone can lead a beach cleanup — whether you're a party of one and two or a party of 20.

"808 Cleanups can occur many ways," said Loftin, a Peace Corps veteran and lifelong environmentalist. "I would say 80 percent are people doing their own cleanups wherever they are. Sharing the stories is really important even if its' a small cleanup."

Taking your dog for a walk on the beach? Make sure you pick up after your dog, of course, and pick up some marine debris on the shoreline while you're at it. Going for a hike with some friends? Pick up any litter that you see along the trails and carry it out with you. The philosophy is to leave it better than when you got there.

Post it to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with #808cleanups and inspire others to do the same.

Follow the Leave No Trace outdoors ethic.

If people are using social media to find formerly unknown hikes, Loftin figures it can also be used to encourage people to respect nature and be responsible hikers and stewards of nature. The goal, he says, is to "make it better than when you found it."

808 Cleanup volunteers recently helped clean layers of trash from Tantalus Lookout (getting the community and Hawaii Discovery Tours involved), bonfire debris from Kaiwi Shoreline and continue to steward Liliuokalani Botanical Park, a city park that has also been neglected. Volunteers who clean a site at least twice a month and post to social media can get a free cleanup kit from 808 Cleanups' sponsor, Home Depot. Loftin usually meets volunteers on site to deliver the cleanup kits.

Find 808 Cleanup's calendar here. 808 cleanups is on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Related Videos:
Intro to 808 Cleanups

Pride Rock cleanup (Lanikai pillbox hike)

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