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Environmental Groups Sue Maui Grand Wailea Resort – Lights That Harm Endangered Seabirds
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Environmental Groups Sue Maui Grand Wailea Resort – Lights That Harm Endangered Seabirds

Honolulu, HI

Earthjustice, representing conservation groups in Hawaii, filed a lawsuit against Mauis Grand Wailea Resort today for its bright lights that attract Hawaiian petrels and often lead to their grounding or death.

Bright lights at Grand Wailea have been disorienting endangered seabirds for more than a ten years as they move between breeding colonies or the ocean. Last year, the Center for Biological Diversity (Conservation Council for Hawaii) and Center for Biological Diversity (Center for Biological Diversity) sent a letter informing Grand Wailea that they intended to sue them. The letter warned that the resorts would light harm Hawaiian petrels in contravention of the Endangered Species Act.

Although the resort made modifications to some lights in response, a grounded fledgling were found during the 2021 autumnout season. This indicates that the species continues to be at risk. The resort has simple options to limit the effects of its lights and prevent birds from being grounded. This is a way to protect birds from injury or death.

The Grand Wailea understands that its lights are causing damage to endangered seabirds of Maui. This isn’t rocket science. There are practical, straightforward solutions the resort should pursue, according to law.Leinala Ley is an attorney at Earthjustices Mid-Pacific Office. We were taking Grand Wailea to court, to ensure that the resort is a responsible neighbour, rather than watching native birds disappear like the Hawaiian petrel.

Conservation Council for Hawaii commends Grand Wailea for taking the first steps to protect seabirds last year during fallout season.Moana Bjur, executive Director at Conservation Council for Hawaii. Unfortunately, the fallout continued in 2021, which highlights the urgent need to make extensive modifications at the resort. We hope to reach a settlement with Grand Wailea before September’s next fledging season. The U.S. Eight native Hawaiian birds are about to be declared extinct by the Fish and Wildlife Service. We must do everything possible to stop the Hawaiian petrel being added to this list.

For too long, the Grand Wailea has been killing Hawaiian petrels. The 2021 half steps they took are not enough.Maxx Phillips, Hawaii director, and staff attorney at Center for Biological Diversity. It shouldn’t be necessary to sue the resort to make reasonable changes to protect these magnificent native seabirds. The Grand Wailea could be a partner in the rescue of these birds and not a factor in their extinction.

The uau (or Hawaiian petrel)Pterodroma sandwichensis), is a federally endangered native seabird that travels thousands of miles across the Pacific to forage for squid and other marine life. When the birds return to Hawaii for nesting, they can be heard making a distinctive, nightly oo-ah oo call as their young ride along coastal updrafts. Hawaii is the only place where the uau can breed.

After several months of weight gain and strengthening their wings, young Uau leave their nests in October or November. They depart after dark to find the ocean. The chicks will never return to the nest again until they are six years old. After that, they’ll be able to navigate back to where they were born to breed. The volcanic slips at Haleakal are where the largest uau nesting colonies can be found. Here, the birds dig burrows into the rocky soil.

Hawaiian petrels rely on the stars and moon to navigate, and artificial lights can often be distracting them as they make their way out to sea. Disoriented birds will circle artificial light until they are exhausted or hit other human-made structures. Uau can’t fly once they are grounded. This makes them vulnerable to predators, starvation and being run over by cars.

There are many sources of bright light on Maui. However, the Grand Wailea’s 40-acre property is the most harmful to Hawaiian petrels. The Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project documented the illegal harming and killing of Hawaiian petrels at Grand Wailea since 2008. However, this is only a small portion of the damage that has been documented. Many ground seabirds are eaten before they can be recovered by predators like cats or mongoose.

Other resorts and hotels have developed responsible plans to protect endangered seabirds from the effects of harmful lighting. The 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay, formerly the St. Regis, has taken wildlife-friendly measures on Kauai. They have shuttered windows and doors during the night of fledglings, kept fountain lights off during fledgling seasons, shield floodlights, implemented a search-and rescue plan for downed birds, and kept doors and windows closed at night. Infrastructure such as power lines and street lights are common in Hawaii.Modernization is requiredTo protect native wildlife, such as seabirds and turtles.

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