Groups Chase Maui Resort Lights Confusing Seabirds

HONOLULU — Bright lights at a luxury resort in Hawaii are killing endangered seabirds, according to a lawsuit filed Monday by conservation groups who say hotel officials must do more to protect the species .

Artificial lights in Maui’s Greater Wailea are disorienting Hawaiian petrels as they navigate between breeding colonies and the ocean, the Conservation Council for Hawaii and the Center for Biological Diversity have said.

Seabirds can confuse lights with the moon and stars which they instinctively use as a guide to fly out to sea.

During the flight season from late September to early December, Hawaiian petrels heading out to sea for the first time are attracted to artificial lights, circling them until they fall to the ground from exhaustion. or collide with man-made structures, according to the lawsuit. Even birds on the ground that are not injured may no longer be able to take off and die.

Adult birds, which are found on Maui from February through October, are also attracted to lights and end up injured or killed, according to the lawsuit.

A Hawaiian petrel.
The National Park Service

From 2008 to 2021, at least 15 Hawaiian petrels have been attracted to the lights of Greater Wailea, and at least one has been found dead, according to the lawsuit.

Protecting all community wildlife is important to the resort, a spokesperson for Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria resort, said in a statement.

“To that end, we have partnered with a leading local expert to support our efforts to ensure native and endangered bird species can seamlessly co-exist and thrive in and around Grand Wailea,” says the press release. “While we do not comment on outstanding legal issues, we will respond appropriately to correct any misunderstandings regarding our case.”

The Greater Wailea changed some lights after the groups sent it a letter last year threatening legal action, the groups said in a news release.

“The Greater Wailea knows its lights are harming endangered seabirds on Maui,” said Leinā’ala Ley, an attorney with the environmental legal organization Earthjustice, which represents the groups. “It’s not rocket science – there are pragmatic and simple solutions that the station could – and, by law, should – pursue.”

The lawsuit says lighting fixtures in Grand Wailea that are particularly harmful to seabirds include “unshielded floodlights, mercury vapor and metal halide lamps, lighting in large swimming pools, and lights in trees and paths by the sea”.

He notes that a similar lawsuit against a Kauai resort resulted in the hotel implementing measures to reduce light attraction to seabirds and making monthly contributions to fund bird projects. of sea.

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