Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, May 2, 2018

Contact: Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121,

Campaign Launched to Protect Endangered Hawaiian Seabirds From Harmful Lights

Business Owners Encouraged to Modify Bright Lights, Help Petrels, Shearwaters

LIHUE, Hawaii— The Center for Biological Diversity today began a campaign to reduce nighttime light pollution on Kauai to protect the island’s endangered seabirds.

Endangered Hawaiian petrels and threatened Newell’s shearwaters are attracted to, and disoriented by, bright nighttime lights. This causes the birds to circle lights at night until they become exhausted and crash, or fall to the ground below the lights, where they’re killed by non-native predators, run over by cars or simply die of exhaustion. 

To address this problem, the Center has begun asking private businesses like hotels and shopping centers along the south, east and north shores of Kauai to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to modify their lights and reduce harm.

“It’s not too late to save Kauai’s endangered seabirds from extinction, but everyone needs to do their part,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center. “Leaving a few bright lights on may not seem like a problem, but when you combine them all, Kauai becomes a very bright and deadly spot for these seabirds.”

Kauai is home to most of the threatened Newell’s shearwaters remaining on the planet. Bright lights have contributed significantly to the catastrophic 94 percent decline in the seabirds’ population since the 1990s. At the same time, Hawaiian petrel numbers on Kauai have plummeted by 78 percent. Remnant breeding populations of the imperiled seabirds cling to survival on Maui and Lānai.

“Making your lights safe for Kauai’s seabirds is easy,” Hartl said. “From shielding lights so they only point down to installing a lower wattage light or just disconnecting a bright light during seabird season, small steps can make a huge difference. We hope business owners will do the right thing so Kauai’s seabirds have a promising future.”

The Center has worked for nearly 10 years to protect endangered seabirds on Kauai. In 2010 the Center and its allies filed a notice of intent to sue the St. Regis Princeville Resort — as well as the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative — for violating the Endangered Species Act for its bright lights that were harming these seabirds. In a resulting settlement, St. Regis Resort agreed to change its lighting and contribute to the birds’ conservation.

Then in 2016 the Center sent a notice of intent to sue the Kokee Air Force Base after its lighting killed more than a dozen endangered seabirds. The base managers agreed to operate under nearly total dark conditions moving forward.

The letters being sent today are not initiating legal actions against any private party, but instead are designed to encourage private businesses to take proactive steps to conserve Kauai’s seabirds.

Kauai Light Pollution

Kauai light pollution graphic courtesy The New World Atlas of Night Sky Brightness (data) and Center for Biological Diversity (map). This image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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