From Wildlife Extra:
Conservation groups threaten luxury Hawaiian resort with lawsuit over seabird deaths
March 2010. Four citizen groups intend to sue the St. Regis Princeville Resort over the luxury resort’s failure to prevent the ongoing deaths of rare native seabirds, in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act. The St. Regis is owned by Starwood Hotels and Resorts.
Hui Ho‘omalu i Ka ‘Äina, Conservation Council for Hawai’i, the Center for Biological Diversity, and American Bird Conservancy, represented by Earthjustice, sent a notice to the hotel saying they would file a lawsuit if the problems aren’t addressed. The groups sent a similar notice to the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative on January 20.
Endangered birds attracted to artificial lights
The resort is responsible for the greatest number of deaths and injuries of endangered seabirds on Kaua‘i due to artificial lights, while birds hitting the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative’s power lines is another significant cause of mortality.
During the fledging season (from late September to early December), critically endangered Newell’s shearwaters (‘a‘o) and Hawaiian petrels (‘ua‘u) that are heading to sea can be attracted to bright lights in and around the resort, which is situated on a coastal bluff in an otherwise dark part of Kaua‘i’s North Shore that is an important seabird flyway. Trapped in the lights’ glare, the confused birds circle repeatedly until they fall to the ground from exhaustion or strike the resort’s buildings.
More than 25% shearwaters downed by artificial lights are downed at the St Regis
Data from the Save Our Shearwaters program indicate that, from 2000 to 2008, more than one-quarter of the total number of shearwaters downed by artificial lights on Kaua‘i went down at that one resort. Figures for the 2009 fallout season show a similar trend, even though the St. Regis just completed a $100 million renovation that reportedly included some lighting changes.
“Whatever they’ve done certainly has not resolved the problem,” said Peter Galvin of the Center for Biological Diversity. “It appears the resort’s renovation served only its high-end clientele, not the birds.”
New measures not implemented
During a 2009 tour, hotel representatives claimed that the resort had adopted several measures to protect the birds, including dimming interior lights and lowering polarizing window shades to minimize light visible from the exterior and keeping pool lights off. Unfortunately, only a week after those assurances were made, a site inspection on the night of October’s new moon, when fledging seabirds are particularly vulnerable to the attraction of artificial lights, revealed that none of these measures were being implemented.
“I asked a resort employee why nothing was being done for the birds and was told that, to improve the guest experience, they were under orders to keep the lights on and the shades up,” said Maka‘ala Kaaumoana of the Kaua‘i-based Hui Ho‘omalu i Ka ‘Äina. “It’s outrageous that, even when they know the community is watching, the resort so blatantly ignores its kuleana (duty) to stop killing our native seabirds.”
Multi-billion dollar corporation ignoring birds plight
“Starwood knew about this problem when it purchased the resort,” said American Bird Conservancy’s George Wallace. “It’s a multi-billion-dollar corporation. It easily could take common-sense steps to protect the birds, such as installing motion detectors to keep outside lights from burning all night while its guests are asleep, and repainting its brightly coloured buildings in darker tones to be less reflective. Instead, it has taken only token measures that are ineffective.”
Save Our Shearwaters program data for the 2009 season show that more than 60 endangered seabirds came down at the resort this year.
Newell’s shearwaters population down by 75%
“The Newell’s population has crashed by 75 percent in only the past fifteen years,” said Kaua‘i resident and biologist Don Heacock, a member of Conservation Council for Hawai‘i. “It can’t afford to keep taking these major hits, suffering this high mortality, year after year. We need to be promoting sustainable development on Kaua‘i.”
By 1908, it was believed to be extinct, but it was found again in 1947, and discovered to be breeding on Kauaʻi in 1967. They nest in a burrow and lay a single [egg]. The young birds leave the nest in October, when they fly out to sea.
See also here.
Actions To Protect Kaua‘i’s Imperiled Seabirds Finally Underway: here.
Use of Social Information in Seabirds: Compass Rafts Indicate the Heading of Food Patches: here.