Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

‘Oh My God, It’s Gone!' Hawaiian Island Important for Seals and Turtles Washed Away by Hurricane

Popular
‘Oh My God, It’s Gone!' Hawaiian Island Important for Seals and Turtles Washed Away by Hurricane
East Island in the French Frigate Shoals, an atoll around 550 miles northwest of Honolulu. Screenshot / YouTube / Chip Fletcher

A small Hawaiian island that was an important habitat for endangered species has entirely disappeared, The Huffington Post confirmed Tuesday.


East Island in the French Frigate Shoals, an atoll around 550 miles northwest of Honolulu that formed part of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, was entirely washed over by storm surge from Hurricane Walaka this month, Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) satellite images show.

"I had a holy shit moment, thinking 'Oh my God, it's gone,'" University of Hawaii climate scientist Chip Fletcher told Honolulu Civil Beat. "It's one more chink in the wall of the network of ecosystem diversity on this planet that is being dismantled."

East Island after Hurricane Walaka.FWS

East Island was only 11 acres—around a half mile long and 400 feet wide. But it was an important habitat for endangered Hawaiian monk seals, Hawaiian green sea turtles and several species of seabirds.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) protected species division director Charles Littnan told The Huffington Post he was not yet sure what the island's loss would mean for the wildlife that depended on it, but that similar small islands were increasingly likely to disappear as climate change leads to sea level rise.

"This event is confronting us with what the future could look like," Littnan said.

Another nearby island, Trig Island, also disappeared this year due to wave activity, but its erosion had been predicted for years, Honolulu Civil Beat said.

A Hawaiian monk sealFWS

Hawaiian monk seals are among the most endangered marine mammals in the world, The Huffington Post reported. Around 80 percent of their population lives in the northwestern Hawaiian islands.

The French Frigate Shoals had decreased in importance as a prime breeding ground for the seals in recent years, but 16 percent of their total population still lives there, and 30 percent of those have their pups on East Island, Honolulu Civil Beat reported.

Twelve pups were born there in 2018, and NOAA told The Huffington Post that all but one were weaned before the storm struck. Littnan said scientists won't know for sure how the hurricane impacted the seals until they return to research next year.

A green turtle pair on a beach in the French Frigate ShoalsNOAA

Hawaiian green sea turtles also relied on the island for breeding. 96 percent of the species nests in the French Frigate Shoals, and half lay eggs on East Island. All the adult turtles had left by the time the storm arrived, but 19 percent of the nests on East Island and 20 percent of the nests on nearby Tern Island were destroyed in the storm.

A crowd of climate activists march behind a banner in NYC during Climate Week on September 20, 2020. Erik McGregor / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Breanna Draxler

After decades on the political periphery, the climate movement is entering the mainstream in 2020, with young leaders at the fore. The Sunrise Movement now includes more than 400 local groups educating and advocating for political action on climate change. Countless students around the world have clearly communicated what's at stake for their futures, notably Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who just finished her yearlong school strike for climate. Youth activists have been praised for their flexible, big-picture thinking and ability to harness social media to deliver political wins, as Sunrise recently did for U.S. Sen. Ed Markey's primary campaign. They necessarily challenge the status quo.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Presidential nominee Joe Biden has not taken a stance on gas exports, including liquefied natural gas. Ken Hodge / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Simon Montlake

For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.

All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Eating lots of fruits and vegetables will boost the immune system. Stevens Fremont / The Image Bank / Getty Images

By Grayson Jaggers

The connection between the pandemic and our dietary habits is undeniable. The stress of isolation coupled with a struggling economy has caused many of us to seek comfort with our old friends: Big Mac, Tom Collins, Ben and Jerry. But overindulging in this kind of food and drink might not just be affecting your waistline, but could potentially put you at greater risk of illness by hindering your immune system.

Read More Show Less
A graphic shows how Rhoel Dinglasan's smartphone-based saliva test works. University of Florida

As the world continues to navigate the line between reopening and maintaining safety protocols to slow the spread of the coronavirus, rapid and accurate diagnostic screening remains critical to control the outbreak. New mobile-phone-based, self-administered COVID-19 tests being developed independently around the world could be a key breakthrough in making testing more widely available, especially in developing nations.

Read More Show Less
A meteorologist monitors weather in NOAA's Center for Weather and Climate Prediction on July 2, 2013 in Riverdale, Maryland. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

The Trump White House is now set to appoint two climate deniers to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in one month.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch