Archive for the ‘Papahanaumokuakea’ Category

IUCN Spotlight: Hawaiian monk seals

By
August 25th, 2016



Hawaiian monk seal pup Niho‘ole resting on the beach at Papahanaumokuakea. Photo courtesy NOAA. Permit 16632.

Hawaiian monk seal Niho‘ole, a prematurely weaned male pup, rests on a beach in Laysan. Niho`ole is currently in guarded condition at The Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola hospital in Kona. Credit NMFS/NOAA permit 16632.

The NOAA Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program recently transported four malnourished Hawaiian monk seals, classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List, from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to a monk seal rehabilitation center in Kona, Hawaii.

Among them are prematurely weaned pups, including Niho‘ole, pictured above, as well as YK56, an extremely underweight five-year-old.

"Even though the five-year-old Hawaiian monk seal is older than our typical patients from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, she is much smaller and thinner than the others in her cohort," said Michelle Barbieri, wildlife veterinary medical officer. "She has generally declined in condition over the past two seasons, and appeared to decline even more dramatically this season."

The monk seals underwent physical exams and blood work aboard the NOAA Research Vessel Oscar Elton Sette, and have begun a treatment regime, including oral electrolytes, fish-mash tube feedings and antibiotics. They were shuttled by small boat to Ke Kai Ola, The Marine Mammal Center's monk seal hospital in Kona as part of the final mission of a 24-day research cruise.

NOAA researchers transport Hawaiian monk seals in need of rehabilitation from the Oscar Elton Sette research vessel to a smaller boat that can bring them ashore to Ke Kai Ola, The Marine Mammal Center’s hospital in Kona. Credit NMFS / NOAA permit 16632.

NOAA researchers transport Hawaiian monk seals in need of rehabilitation from the Oscar Elton Sette research vessel to a smaller boat that can bring them ashore to Ke Kai Ola, The Marine Mammal Center’s hospital in Kona. Credit NMFS/NOAA permit 16632.

Teams of researchers, who studied seals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, or Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which President Barack Obama recently quadrupled in size to nearly 583,000 square miles, were also picked up as part of the program's long-running Assessment and Recovery Camps. As remote as the atolls may be, their shores are full of marine debris, including broken-down pieces of plastic, fishing nets and ropes that the seals often get entangled in.

Since Ke Kai Ola opened two years ago, the hospital has provided another option in the islands for malnourished monk seals that would otherwise perish at Papahanaumokuakea. So far, the hospital has rehabilitated and returned 15 Hawaiian monk seals to the wild, including seven last year.

The Hawaiian monk seal, or neomonachus schauinslandi, is endemic to the Hawaiian islands, meaning found nowhere else, and typically hauls out on beaches to rest during the day. While most live in Papahanaumokuakea, a growing number of pups are being born in the main Hawaiian islands. Their population has been in decline for decades, with only an estimated 1,300 left in the wild.

Hawaiian monk seal Niho`ole, a prematurely weaned male pup, rests on a beach in Laysan. Niho`ole is currently in guarded condition at The Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola hospital in Kona. Credit NMFS / NOAA permit 16632.

Hawaiian monk seal Niho‘ole, a prematurely weaned male pup, rests on a beach in Laysan. Niho‘ole is currently in guarded condition at The Marine Mammal Center’s Ke Kai Ola hospital in Kona. Credit NMFS/NOAA permit 16632.

Interested in learning more about Hawaii's wildlife? The IUCN Forum presents a Knowledge Cafe, entitled "Wet and Wild: Promoting Sustainable and Responsible Ecotourism Experiences with Marine Wildlife" from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 3 in Room 311-4 at Hawai‘i Convention Center. Meet with representatives from NOAA Fisheries for a discussion on how to balance sustainability with tourism when it comes to whales, dolphins, manta rays and Hawaiian monk seals. Wildlife managers, marine ecotourism operators, cultural practitioners, travel industry representatives, scientists and others welcome. A followup discussion will be held off site from 1 to 5 p.m. at the OHANA Waikiki East Hotel, lobby conference room, 150 Kaiulani Ave. RSVP to Adam Kurtz, adam.kurtz@noaa.gov by Sept. 6.

Related videos:

Hawaiian monk seal pup Niho‘ole playing with plastic debris at Laysan.

 

This public service announcement plays on Hawaiian Airlines' in-flight video:

Posted in Conservation, Endangered species, Hawaiian monk seals, IUCN, IUCN World Conservation Congress, Papahanaumokuakea | Comments Off on IUCN Spotlight: Hawaiian monk seals

12 tons of trash

By
May 23rd, 2016



Overview of the marine debris pile collected from Midway Atoll. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Overview of the marine debris pile collected from Midway Atoll. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Located about 750 miles further northwest of Kauai, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. It is home to more than 7,000 marine species, one quarter of which are found only in the Hawaiian isles.

It's remote and the waters are pristine, except for the sheer amount of derelict fishing nets and plastic litter that land upon the monument's tiny isles, atolls and coral reefs.

From mid-April to May, a team of 10 NOAA scientists conducted shoreline marine debris surveys at Midway, Kure, Pearl and Hermes atolls, Lisianski Island and French Frigate Shoals. A total of 24,123 pounds — or about 12 tons — were removed from those shorelines.

Derelict fishing net and plastic debris at Midway Atoll, Eastern Island. Courtesy NOAA.

Derelict fishing net and plastic debris at Midway Atoll, Eastern Island. Courtesy NOAA.

Among the items were 1,843 derelict fishing nets or net fragments, 1,468 plastic beverage bottles, 4,457 bottle caps, 570 shoes and slippers (flip-flops), 535 cigarette lighters, 485 toothbrushes and other personal care products and 8,452 hard plastic fragments.

Plastic cigarette lighters picked up from Midway Atoll. Courtesy NOAA.

Plastic cigarette lighters picked up from Midway Atoll. Courtesy NOAA.

The team brought the marine debris back for a sorting event for schoolchildren at the NOAA Inouye Regional Center on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. Students in third to sixth grade helped sort plastic bottles, bottle caps, toothbrushes and other non-hazardous debris. The NOAA Marine Debris team and its partners hope to educate Hawaii's youth on the negative impacts of consuming single-use plastics and to become the leading example for future generations.

Plastics brought back from Papahanaumokuakea will be recycled for use in art displays and manufactured goods, while the fishing nets will be sent to Hawaii's Nets to Energy Program to be repurposed as fuel.

NOAA has been removing marine debris from the Northwestern Hawaiian islands since 1996. Over the past 20 years, agency staff and partners have removed a total of 848 metric tons (or 1.9 million pounds) of derelict fishing gear and plastics from Paphanaumokuakea.

Marine debris team at work, Midway Atoll, Sand Island. Courtesy NOAA.

Marine debris team at work, Midway Atoll, Sand Island. Courtesy NOAA.

Layson albatross and chick examine plastic debris. Midway Atoll. Courtesy NOAA.

Laysan albatross and chick examine plastic debris. Midway Atoll. Courtesy NOAA.

Elementary school students help sort plastic debris gathered at Papahanaumokuakea at Ford Island headquarters. Courtesy NOAA.

Elementary school students help sort plastic debris gathered at Papahanaumokuakea at Ford Island headquarters. Courtesy NOAA.

Posted in Conservation, marine debris, Papahanaumokuakea | Comments Off on 12 tons of trash

Pearl and Hermes

By
July 6th, 2015



Hermes and Pearl resting by the pool pen at Ke Kai Ola, the monk seal hospital in Kona. Hermes and Pearl were rescued as preweaned pups at Pearl and Hermes atolls in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. NMFS Permit 16632-00 and 932-1905-01. Photo credit: Julie Steelman.

Hawaiian monk seal pups Hermes and Pearl resting by the pool pen at Ke Kai Ola, a hospital run by The Marine Mammal Center in Kona. Hermes and Pearl were rescued as pre-weaned pups at Pearl and Hermes atolls in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
NMFS Permit 16632-00 and 932-1905-01MA-009526-1. Photo credit: Julie Steelman.

Happy monk seal Monday.

Here's an update on Pearl and Hermes — two prematurely weaned Hawaiian monk seal pups that NOAA researchers picked up from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, or Papahanaumokuakea, aboard the Hi‘ialakai in early June.  The pair, one female and one male, are being rehabbed at Ke Kai Ola in Kona and doing well.

The seals, named Hermes and Pearl after the atoll where they were found, graduated from fish smoothies to eating whole fish last week. The shift to eating fish (thawed-out herring) is a significant step since it eliminates the need for tube feeding.

"Pearl is starting to put on weight," said operations manager Deb Wickham. "Hermes is not putting on as much, but he's basically stable."

Pearl weighs about 35 kilograms, and Hermes weighs about 36 kilograms.

When the monk seal pups first arrived, they were under a month old, with black coats. Their coats are now turning into a silvery sheen. Besides herring, Pearl and Hermes are also enjoying "fishstickles" this summer. They sleep a lot during the day, according to Wickham, but are also playful. They're up early in the morning, and at night.

"When they first arrived, they were suckling on each other," said Wickham. "They play together. They are very bonded."

Pearl, a Hawaiian monk seal pup rescued from Pearl atoll, peeks out from her pen at Ke Kai Ola, the monk seal hospital in Kona where she is being rehabilitated. When she gains enough weight, she will be transported and released back home. Photo credit: Julie Steelman.

Pearl, a Hawaiian monk seal pup rescued from Pearl atoll, peeks out from her pen at Ke Kai Ola, the monk seal hospital in Kona where she's being rehabilitated. When she gains enough weight, she'll be released back home. NMFS Permit 16632-00 and 932-1905-01MA-009526-1. Photo credit: Julie Steelman.

The pups are expected to stay at Ke Kai Ola, a Hawaiian monk seal hospital built at a cost of $3.2 million by The Marine Mammal Center in Marin, Calif. until about September. Two other monk seal pups, Pua and Mele, were rehabilitated and plumped up at the hospital for six months last year, then transported back to Kure Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands with help from the U.S. Coast Guard. They were rescued last September as severely malnourished pups.

Wickham actually got a chance to observe them in the wild on this last 21-day voyage to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands aboard NOAA's Hi‘ialakai.

"They're doing really well, doing great," said Wickham, who added that seeing Pua and Mele healthy at home was the best reward.

Hawaiian monk seals are critically endangered, with a population of fewer than 1,100 remaining in the wild, according to NOAA. They are protected by both state and federal laws, and should be left in peace if resting on a shoreline. A growing number, between 150 to 200, are appearing on main Hawaiian isle shorelines like Maui, Kauai and Oahu. Volunteers from the Monk Seal Foundation help keep watch over them, as well as maintain a safe distance between the wild seals and humans.

Ke Kai Ola, a brand-new facility at NELHA, offers specialized pens and pools for the rehabilitation of Hawaiian monk seals, plus a fish kitchen, lab and office. The hospital welcomes help from volunteers in the community who want to help with its mission of helping save the critically endangered monk seals. Visit www.marinemammalcenter.org/hawaii to learn more.

Hermes at Ke Kai Ola in Kona. Hermes just began eating whole fish and is on his way to recovery. NMFS Permit 16632-00 and 932-1905-01MA-009526. Photo credit: Julie Steelman.

Hermes at Ke Kai Ola in Kona. Hermes just began eating whole fish and is on his way to recovery. NMFS Permit 16632-00 and 932-1905-01MA-009526-1. Photo credit: Julie Steelman.

Related Video:
Pua and Mele being released at Kure Atoll (By The Marine Mammal Center)

Posted in Endangered species, Hawaiian monk seals, Marine Life, Papahanaumokuakea | Comments Off on Pearl and Hermes

Q&A Kahi Pacarro

By
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 underneath...it 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...

PUT IT ON YOUR CALENDAR

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.

SCHJune27cleanup

57 tons

By
October 30th, 2014



An endangered Hawaiian monk seal hauled out on large net at Pearl and Hermes Atoll Photo Credit: NOAA

Caption: Hawaiian monk seal hauled out on large net at Pearl and Hermes Atoll.
Photo Credit: NOAA

The 57 tons of marine debris that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration divers removed from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands during a 33-day mission this month is just a fraction of all that's out there. The Star-Advertiser story ran in the paper Oct. 29.

For the Green Leaf, the images are a reminder of just how much work remains to be done out in the isles, also known as Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, as well as of the impact of all the plastic that ends up in the ocean ecosystem. For the team of 17 divers sailing aboard the Oscar Elton Sette, it was rewarding to at least have made a dent in the amount of derelict fishing nets and plastic litter in and around the tiny islands, atolls and sensitive coral reefs.

"The amount of marine debris we find in this remote, untouched place is shocking," said Mark Manuel, chief scientist for the mission. "Every day, we pulled up nets weighing hundreds of pounds from the corals. We filled the dumpster on the Sette to the top with nets, and then we filled the decks. There's a point when you can handle no more, but there's still a lot out there."

Divers encountered – and rescued — three sea turtles tangled in different nets at Pearl and Hermes Atoll.

They were also able to remove a "super net" measuring 28-by-7-feet, which took several days. The net weighed 11-and-a-half tons and had to be cut into three pieces and towed back to the Sette separately. Luckily, it will no longer be out there, posing an entanglement risk for marine wildlife like the sea turtles, Hawaiian monk seals and seabirds, or damaging corals.

On the shorelines of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, the team surveyed and removed nearly 6 and a quarter tons of plastic trash, paying special attention to the bottle caps and cigarette lighters that are commonly consumed by birds. They removed and counted thousands of pieces of plastic, including (take note):

>> 7,436 hard plastic fragments

>> 3,758 bottle caps

>> 1,469 plastic  beverage bottles

>> 477 cigarette lighters

NOAA has led the mission every since 1996, removing a total of 904 tons of marine debris, to date, including this year's haul. The nets are transported back to Hawaii and converted to energy through the Nets to Energy partnership with Covanta Energy and Schnitzer Steel.

"This mission is critical to keeping marine debris from building up in the monument," said Kyle Koyanagi, Pacific Islands regional coordinator for NOAA's Marine Debris program. "Hopefully we can find ways to prevent nets from entering this special place, but until then, removing them is the only way to keep them from harming this fragile ecosystem."

Marine debris is a global, everyday problem that affects everyone. Anything manmade, including litter and fishing gear, can become marine debris once lost or thrown into the marine environment, but the most common are plastics. "There is no part of the world left untouched by debris and its impacts." Visit marinedebris.noaa.gov to learn more.

NOAA diver conducts towboard surveys at Midway Atoll. Photo Credit: NOAA

NOAA marine debris staff sorting marine debris on Midway Atoll after conducting shoreline surveys. As you can see, most of it is plastic. Photo Credit: NOAA

‘Opihi discoveries

By
July 5th, 2014



Scientists are mapping and monitoring the ‘opihi population in the Northwestern Hawaiian Island and believe hybridization is occurring between the yellowfoot and blackfoot ‘opihi. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Scientists are mapping and monitoring the ‘opihi population in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and believe hybridization is occurring between the yellowfoot and blackfoot ‘opihi. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Scientists on a recent expedition to the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument have discovered a mingling of the yellowfoot and blackfoot ‘opihi on Mokumanamana. The good news is that the hybridization means ‘opihi, a prized delicacy in Hawaii, may be more resilient against the effects of climate change and other disturbances.

For the sixth consecutive year, members of the intertidal monitoring expedition examined the rocky shorelines of Nihoa, Mokumanamana and French Frigate Shoals. It involved walking, crawling, swimming and clinging to rocks to count, size and record all ‘opihi around the islands.

The data collected will provide good baseline information to compare with data being collected in the more populated main Hawaiian islands, according to NOAA acting deputy superintendent Hoku Johnson, who led the expedition. It will also be turned into spatial "heat maps" depicting ‘opihi abundance, size and species on each island.

In the main Hawaiian islands, ‘opihi is is serious decline.

Scientists are trying to better understand their spawning patterns, gene flow and the rate of evolution of the three species endemic to Hawaii to better manage shorelines near populated areas.

 

Posted in Marine Life, Papahanaumokuakea | Comments Off on ‘Opihi discoveries

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