Quantcast

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

Popular
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.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Yulia Lisitsa / iStock / Getty Images

By Rachael Link, MS, RD

Many people follow the lacto-vegetarian diet for its flexibility and health benefits.

Read More Show Less

By Jared Kaufman

Eating a better diet has been linked with lower levels of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. But unfortunately 821 million people — about 1 in 9 worldwide — face hunger, and roughly 2 billion people worldwide are overweight or obese, according to the U.N. World Health Organization. In addition, food insecurity is associated with even higher health care costs in the U.S., particularly among older people. To help direct worldwide focus toward solving these issues, the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals call for the elimination of hunger, food insecurity and undernutrition by 2030.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
Healthline

Made from the freshly sprouted leaves of Triticum aestivum, wheatgrass is known for its nutrient-dense and powerful antioxidant properties.

Read More Show Less

mevans / E+ / Getty Images

The federal agency that manages the Great Barrier Reef issued an unprecedented statement that broke ranks with Australia's conservative government and called for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Guardian.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

A powerful earthquake struck near Athens, Greece and shook the capital city for 15 seconds on Friday, causing people to run into the streets to escape the threat of falling buildings, NBC News reported.

Read More Show Less
U.S. government scientists concluded in a new report that last month was the hottest June on record. Angelo Juan Ramos / Flickr

By Jessica Corbett

As meteorologists warned Thursday that temperatures above 100°F are expected to impact two-thirds of the country this weekend, U.S. government scientists revealed that last month was the hottest June ever recorded — bolstering calls for radical global action on the climate emergency.

Read More Show Less
Rod Waddington / CC BY-SA 2.0

By John R. Platt

For years now conservationists have warned that many of Madagascar's iconic lemur species face the risk of extinction due to rampant deforestation, the illegal pet trade and the emerging market for the primates' meat.

Yes, people eat lemurs, and the reasons they do aren't exactly what we might expect.

Read More Show Less