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November 2008

Hawai`i News

Humpback whales that feed over the summer in the North Pacific make their way to warmer waters around Hawai`i in winter months to mate and birth. This year, the first sighting of a humpback
has already been reported near Maui.
Photo courtesy of HIHWNMS NOAA Fisheries Permit #782-1438 & #782-1719

 

Humpback Whales Begin Annual
Migration from the Northwest to Hawai`i

By Rochelle delaCruz

Humpback whales are starting to arrive in Hawaiian waters on their annual 3,000 mile trek from the North Pacific. By mid-October, several sightings were already being reported off Maui and Hawai`i island, even though the height of the whale season occurs in February.

The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a baleen whale, with adults ranging from 40 – 50 feet and weighing approximately 40 tons or 80,000 lbs. When near the surface of the water, its back emerges and resembles a long hump, hence the name humpback. The Hawaiians call it koholā, and Kamehameha I named his main heiau at Kawaihae Pu`ukoholā. Pu`u means hill and from the beach below, the site of the heiau looks like the back of the whale. Looking out over the ocean from the hilltop, humpbacks can be clearly seen whenever they are in Hawaiian waters.

The humpback was among several large whales hunted during the height of the whaling industry in the 1800s, when Lahaina, Maui was one of its main centers in the Pacific. But by 1966, its population had fallen by an estimated 90%, a whaling moratorium was imposed and the humpback was declared endangered.

The whales are slowly returning and today there are an estimated 80,000 humpback whales worldwide with 18,000 to 20,000 in the North Pacific. These feed on small fish and krill – a shrimplike crustacean - during the summer months off the coast of Alaska and Canada and migrate to the tropics in the winter to mate and give birth. There are roughly 1,000 calves born each year in Hawaiian waters and in 1992, the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary was established by Congress, encompassing 1,370 square miles including most waters between the islands of Maui, Lana`i, Molokai and Kaho`olawe. The sanctuary is managed by the state of Hawai`i and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in a cooperative partnership.

Koholā Humpback Whale
Photo courtesy of HIHWNMS NOAA Fisheries Permit #782-1438 & #782-1719

Even though whaling in Hawai`i ended long ago and the species is slowly recovering, there are modern dangers such as noise pollution, net entanglement and ship collisions. A report cites a rise in whale collisions in recent years, although explanations could be the increase in whale population and in reporting. Currently there are around 50 whale-watching tour boats in Hawai`i that carry about 300,000 passengers a year. Baby whales, or calves, are generally more vulnerable to ship strikes because they surface often and are more difficult to detect. In addition, ship pilots say some collisions occur because calves sometimes surface right under the boats. But whales are not the only ones in danger. In 2004, a 3-year-old boy suffered fatal head and neck injuries as he fell when the tour boat he was on hit a humpback off O`ahu.

Some environmental groups want to see stricter enforcement of NOAA regulations and a limit to the number of tour boats during peak breeding and birthing season. But large ships, cruise lines and interisland barges also cross sanctuary waters, including the SuperFerry which began service last spring and often cuts right through the Marine Sanctuary as it transports people and cars between O`ahu and Maui.

The Hawaii SuperFerry recently announced that it is installing a high-tech thermal imaging system including a night-vision device that can detect whales more than a mile away and thus reduce the risk of collision. But detractors say that the ferry moves too fast and the channel waters are too rough for such devices to be effective.

Whale-watching is perhaps best done from shore, which endangers neither whale nor human. For those who want to go out on boats (including kayaks,) be aware that federal regulations prohibit approaching whales closer than 100 yards. To be informed of other laws regarding the endangered humpback whale, go to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary at http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov

 

Honu Nests Discovered on Moloka`i

By Leona Lueders

Imagine that one evening you are walking along the beach to watch the sunset with your neighbors and you see a shadowy form on the sand. In a moment you see the shadow move. You walk towards it and realize that it's a very large female Hawaiian green sea turtle. This honu begins digging and sand is flying all over. It's getting dark, and luckily, one of the folks in your group has a camera and takes a picture!

That's what happened to Kipi and Noa Kaakimaka and Doug and LeeAnn Mott on May 17, 2008. The next morning Kipi returned to the site and took pictures of honu tracks returning to the sea. In Kipi's words, "This is the first ever documented Hawaiian green sea turtle sighting and discovery of nests at Papohaku Beach, on Moloka'i. It takes a Hawaiian green sea turtle 25 to 40 years to reach sexual maturity and come back to their beach of birth to lay eggs. Only 1 out of 800 eggs laid will reach maturity and come back to their birthplace."

In August of 2008 a large hole was found and people thought someone was digging up the beach. More holes were found by neighbors who also thought someone had been digging up the beach. On September 17 they saw little tracks going down to the sea. Eventually it dawned on everyone that the eggs were hatching. They called George Balaz, of NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration-a Federal agency) on O'ahu. The honu is still on the endangered list and there is a $500,000 fine for anyone who is caught unearthing a turtle nest, so it was good they called in the expert and became a part of the group of volunteers to unearth the nest where the hatched eggs were found. George does genetic testing to keep track of honu and their ohana.

4 nests were uncovered: The first nest had 102 eggs including 5 hatched babies recovered from the nest and sent out to sea (that's the picture with the hatchlings in the bucket); the second nest turned up nothing; in the third nest unhatched babies were found and the next was reburied  - to be checked on in 7-10 days; the last nest, laid on May 17, had 100 eggs hatched, 6 under developed eggs (taken back to the lab in Honolulu for dna testing).

 

 

Leona Lueders lives in Federal Way. Washington and is a graduate of the Kamehameha Schools.

 

Hawai`i's Nets-to-Energy Program

By Carey Morishige

Have you ever wondered what’s done with marine debris after a cleanup? Many times, the collected debris ends up in a landfill. Hawaii, and now a handful of states along the east coast of the U.S., have started turning their marine debris into usable electricity.

Trained divers with NOAA's Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center hail alarge tangle of removed derelict fishing net aboard a small avon in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Photo from NOAA PIFSC CRED

For years, Hawaii-based longline fishermen have encountered derelict fishing nets when traveling to and from fishing grounds and when fishing in areas where ocean currents converge and marine debris accumulates. Derelict fishing nets (a type of marine debris), net pieces, and other debris are navigational hazards and can damage vessels. Currents also carry the derelict nets to the shores of the Northwestern and main Hawaiian Islands, where they damage coral reefs and entangle wildlife. Over the years, Hawaii’s longline fishermen have voluntarily brought these derelict nets and smaller bits back to port to eliminate the risk of future at-sea encounters and to assist in environmental cleanup efforts. These nets were historically taken to an already stressed county landfill.

To ease the burden on the landfill and make the derelict nets useful in a new way, a private-public initiative of 11 different Federal and State government agencies, organizations, private business, and industry created the Honolulu Derelict Net Recycling Program. Through this program, derelict nets and used monofilament line are placed in a dedicated container located at Pier 38, Honolulu Harbor. Periodically, the debris is transported by Schnitzer Steel Hawaii Corporation to their facility, where it is chopped into smaller pieces suitable for incineration at the City and County of Honolulu’s waste-to-energy facility, run by Covanta Energy. Through this process, the debris is used to create electricity. All services as well as the continued support and maintenance of the bin and this program are donated, free of charge, by the partners.

Program partners include the Hawaii Longline Association, Schnitzer Steel Hawaii Corporation, United Fishing Agency, Pacific Ocean Producers Fishing and Marine, Covanta Energy, Matson Navigation Company, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, Hawaii State Department of Transportation-Harbors Division, City and County of Honolulu, and University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program.

"The success of these nets to energy programs is in large part du to the support of these dedicated partners," said Doug Helton, Acting Directpr for the NOAA Marine Debris Program. "NOAA os proud to be a part of this important and highly successful endeavor."

Currently the container is used by the longliners and by local government and non-profit groups to dispose of derelict nets and line. To date, through this program, over 31 tons of this debris has been used to create enough electricity to power 13 homes for a year each! Some of the debris is reused by local community members in such items as soccer and baseball cage netting.

This program has brought the marine community, specifically the 11 partners involved, closer together and resulted in collaboration in several other projects and an overall more comprehensive and cooperative approach to addressing marine debris in Hawaii. For example, talks with Hawaii’s longliners about their encounters with marine debris and the impact of the debris on lost fishing effort and down-time led to the creation of a “Marine Debris Encounter Reporting System” pilot project led by the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

The attention, both in the media and by word-of-mouth, that the Honolulu Derelict Net Recycling Program has received on a local, national, and even international level has helped raise awareness about the problem of marine debris. The program also gives the public a way to get involved by providing a responsible disposal option for derelict nets they collect. Additionally, information has been shared with other countries, including Australia and Korea, that have expressed interest in learning more about this program, its implementation, and results.

Inspired by the success of this program, a similar program and partnership were created and launched in February 2008 on the East Coast of the U.S. This separate initiative, named “Fishing for Energy,” continues the partnership of NOAA, Schnitzer Steel, and Covanta Energy, and adds the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. This initiative is spread along the East Coast of the U.S., and the first project on the West Coast hopes to launch in early 2009.

For more information on this program visit:

http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/projects/netstoenergy.html

http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/projects/hiportrecep.html

http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/projects/fishing4energy.html

or contact Carey.Morishige@noaa.gov.

 

Understanding the Lives of North Pacific Humpback Whales

By Christine Brammer and Nanette Napoleon, NOAA

The annual migration of North Pacific humpback whales to their winter breeding grounds has begun. Most North Pacific humpback whales winter in one of three lower latitude areas: Hawai‘i, western Mexico and the islands of southern Japan. As many as 10,000 humpback whales, the majority of the North Pacific stock, choose to migrate to Hawai‘i each year to mate, calve, and nurse their young. Humpbacks may find Hawai‘i suitable because of the warm waters, the underwater visibility, the variety of ocean depths, and the lack of natural predators. In fact, Hawai‘i is thought to be home to the largest seasonal population of humpback whales in the world.

Humpback whales can easily be seen in Hawai‘i’s nearshore waters and their impressive acrobatic displays are often visible from miles away.  Mothers can be seen breaching alongside their calves and males can be seen competing with one another for females in fierce head-to-head battles.

In 1992 the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary was designated by Congress to protect the endangered humpback whales and their habitat in Hawai‘i. Although whale watching is a popular attraction in Hawai‘i, boat operators must maintain a 100-yard approach distance from whales. Many of the sanctuary’s programs focus on safe boating. Other programs focus on education, research, rescue, and resource protection activities.

Humpbacks spend over 90% of their lives under the surface of the water. Research that aims to understand these animals can be challenging and lengthy. After four years of an intensive international study called: Structure of Population, Levels of Abundance and Status of Humpback Whales in the North Pacific (SPLASH), the long awaited research project’s report on population is in, and the findings are very positive.

According to the report, which was published in May of 2008 by the central coordinator for the project, Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, Washington, there were less than 1,500 humpback whales in the region when the last population studies were done in the 1960s. Today, the population has rebounded to approximately 18,000 to 20,000 animals.

Researchers attribute this increase to the international banning of whaling in the region in 1966, the institution of federal protection laws in the 1970s, including the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act; and the increased public awareness of the problem, which has been driven by many groups, including the sanctuary. The SPLASH study was the most ambitious, large-scale study ever conducted on any whale population in the world. Initiated by NOAA and key partners in 2004, SPLASH brought together more than 400 researchers from 50 organizations and 10 countries throughout the Pacific Rim, including the United States, Japan, Russian, Mexico, Canada, Philippines, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.

David Mattila, Science and Rescue Coordinator for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary served on the SPLASH Steering Committee, and coordinated work in Hawai‘i. “I think that SPLASH has been tremendously successful, and that the data collected was right on target or above target,” said Mattila. “Coordinating a project of this magnitude between so many individuals, organizations and countries was incredibly complex and extremely rewarding.”

Funding for SPLASH came from NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and National Marine Fisheries Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Pacific Life Foundation, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, along with support from a number of other organizations and governmental agencies.

Research took place in all known humpback whale northern summer feeding habitats in the Bering Sea, Russia, the northwest United States and California. Winter mating and calving research took place in Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Guatemala, Hawai‘i and Southeast Asia.

Primary goals of the study included collecting detailed information about migratory behaviors and routes, population distribution, genetic history and human impact. SPLASH used three primary methods of study: (1) photos to identify individual whales, (2) biopsy sampling, and (3) photos to assess human impacts.

Photo identification involved taking more than 18,000 photos of whale tail flukes to identify 8,000 individual whales. By matching flukes photographed in their feeding areas with those photographed in the wintering areas, researchers were able to determine the patterns of individual whale movements, as well as estimate the sizes of different populations. Thousands of other photos were also taken of body scars to determine the frequency and distribution of ship strikes and whale entanglement in fishing gear. Researchers also collected more than 6,000 biopsy samples for studies of genetics and toxin levels. Early results indicate that, while humpbacks generally show less impact from some human activities like toxins the further they live from industrialized areas, there is no population in the North Pacific that does not show significant impact from entanglement.

According to David Mattila, the results show a complex picture of some unexpected interchange of individuals over great distances, and yet there remain some small, isolated groups like the Asian and Central American populations. More funding is needed to complete the data analysis phase of the project and to truly understand the North Pacific population. To find out more about this project or to learn how you can support the sanctuary’s efforts, visit the sanctuary’s website at http://hawaiihumpbackwhale.noaa.gov. To read the entire SPLASH Final Report, go to the Cascadia Research website: www.cascadiaresearch.org/SPLASH/splash.htm

 

St. Joseph School, Hilo -- 140 Years and Counting

By Patrick Naughton, Development Director

The St. Joseph School `Ohana is pleased to share its 140th anniversary with alumni and friends throughout the islands and on the West Coast. From our mailing list we know we have a number of graduates in the Pacific Northwest, in the Puget Sound and Greater Portland areas with a few scattered east of the Cascades.

The school had its beginnings on April 1, 1869 and was chartered by King Kamehameha V to teach English to Native Hawaiians and immigrant children. In 1875 the genders were separated with the boys’ school being named Maria Keola School. In 1885 the Marianist Brothers came to Hilo and assumed control of the boys’ school and renamed it St. Mary School. St. Joseph School remained a girls’ school and in 1900 the Franciscan Sisters of Syracuse assumed responsibility for it. The schools were joined in 1948 at their current site on Ululani Street. The first joint graduating class was in 1951 when the Franciscan Sisters assumed full leadership of the school.

Any alumni and former students from the amalgamation period will remember how the boys’ principal Fr. Thomas Hogan, S.M. and the girls’ principal Sr. Viola Kiernan, O.S.F. kept a tight rein on the student body in those first years of togetherness. The boys occupied the rooms on the mauka side of the buildings while the girls were in the makai side rooms. Whoa be unto anyone who crossed the line! Mind you, Sr. Stephen Marie Serrao, O.S.F. from the old St. Joseph Girls School can remember how she and the other girls found ways to sneak off to the Veterans Cemetery to meet the boys.

Throughout the years St. Joseph students have excelled at academics and athletics. Almost every year at least one student achieved the National Merit Finalist status. The boys basketball team won the last Territorial Championship in 1958 under the coaching tutelage of the renowned Walter Victor, Sr. (in whose memory the school gym is named). Individual students have won state championships such as Julie Miranda (`95) who won the 1994 State Steer Undecorating Championship (yes, really) and Fernando Aguirregomezcorta (an exchange student from Spain) who won the 2008 State Boys Tennis Singles Championship.

The school will be celebrating the 140th Anniversary with several events during 2009. On March 18th there will be a gala reception in Hilo for alumni, friends, and the Big Island community. The next day Bishop Larry Silva will celebrate mass on St. Joseph Day at the church. These two events will kick off the anniversary celebrations. Sometime later in the Spring we will have a reception in Honolulu and then during the remainder of the year the school is planning to hold anniversary receptions on the West Coast in six alumni population concentrations (Seattle, Portland, San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Las Vegas).

This year the school will be inaugurating a new honor for graduates. Joining the Athletic Hall of Fame will be the Hall of Fame for Lifelong Achievement. Please call or e-mail me (see below) for the Lifelong Achievement nomination form – it will also be in the alumni newsletter being mailed out in November. The first awards will be announced at the March 18th reception.

Any alumni or friends who would like to help sponsor or plan a West Coast reception are asked to contact Pat Naughton by phone (808-933-1459), mail or e-mail (pwnaughton@gmail.com).

If any St. Joseph or St. Mary alumni read this and are not on our mailing list, please contact me. You do not want to miss out on your alma mater’s 140th Anniversary celebration.

 

New Airline Service for Inter-Island Market

By NWHT Staff

Mokulele, a Kona-based airlines, will expand its service to provide inter-island flights between Honolulu – Lihu`e (Kaua`i) and Kona ( Hawai`i island) starting on November 19th. Service to Kahului, Maui and Hilo will begin early next year. Mokulele will join in partnership with Indiana-based Republic Airways, which also operates Chautauqua Airlines and Shuttle America on the continent.

Since the demise of Aloha Airlines last spring, travelers in Hawai`i fly on Hawaiian Air or go! for inter-island service. Residents who work on other islands or need to go to Honolulu for medical treatment are especially limited by these choices. Those on Maui can ride the SuperFerry to O`ahu but the ferry is still embroiled in controversy since it was allowed to side-step an environmental impact statement before starting its operations.

Mokulele Chief Executive Bill Boyer said that while many of the increased work force will come from Aloha Airlines, pilots, flight attendants and mechanics will be Republic employees.

Even though Mokulele wants to avoid the fares war that occurred when go! entered the market and offered one-way tickets as low as $19, an additional inter-island airline increases the competition which could lead to lower airfares. When Mokulele announced a one-way inter-island ticket of $61, go! and Hawaiian immediately cut their fares to $61.

Previous to the new partnership announcement, Mokulele was in an agreement with Mesa Air Group to serve smaller airports at Lana`i, Moloka`i and Kapalua, Maui, under the name go!Express. Mesa CEO Jonathan Ornstein said he was surprised at the announcement of Mokulele’s partnership with Republic and a week later, filed a lawsuit to recover $400,000 from Mokulele for fuel expenses. This is the fourth lawsuit involving Mesa and island airlines since 2006 when it entered the Hawai`i market.

Whichever way we go, inter-island travel in Hawai`i is a bumpy ride these days.

 

Sea Turtles, A Hawai'i Wildlife Guide

You're likely to find green turtles gliding through the sea around reefs and in shallow waters near our island shores. Dive down and you may find them sleeping under ledges of lava rock and coral. Occasionally, green turtles sunbathe on coral heads or beaches. They are named "green" turtles for their green-tinted body fat, colored by algae and sea grass that they eat. Green sea turtles undertake amazing journeys to their place of birth where they mate and rest. For almost all of the green turtles that you see around the main Hawaiian Islands, this birthplace is 500 to 800 miles away in the remote French Frigate Shoals, located in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The sexually mature female turtle makes this long journey about every two to three years; males travel there every year or two. Nesting takes place primarily from May through August. The females drag themselves ashore at night to nest. Each nesting female comes ashore to lay eggs as many as seven times, at 11 to 18 day intervals. The female uses her hind flippers to sculpt a bottle shaped egg chamber, where she deposits a clutch of 100-120 leathery eggs, each measuring about two inches in diameter. She pushes dirt and sand with her flippers to bury them. The eggs hatch about 55 to 65 days later. Depending on the temperature of the sand. Working cooperatively, the tiny hatchlings dig upward to the surface, an effort that takes two to three days. The tiny turtles immediately crawl to the sea, attracted to light reflected off the water. Some become meals for crabs and fish. The surviving hatchlings subsist on plankton, jellyfish and fish eggs floating near the surface of the open ocean. Until the honu are about four to six years old, it is unknown exactly where the young turtles go. The turtles then appear as larger juveniles along the shallow coastlines of Hawaii's main islands. As larger juveniles, they become herbivorous vegetarians, feeding primarily on algae and sea grass - a pattern that continues through adulthood. Tiger sharks are the only natural predators of adult green turtles. Humans once caused a decline in the population of Hawaii's green turtles, but, thankfully, a dramatic increase had been documented in the turtles' numbers during the past 25 years. It's fascinating to look a the history of this turnaround. In ancient Hawaii, the hunting of turtles and turtle eggs was permitted, but the number of turtles taken was strictly regulated by ali'i or chiefs. Some families revered turtles as their 'amakua, or personal family protectors and wouldn't eat them at all. Fishermen and sailors visiting the French Frigate Shoals hunted green turtles for their meat from the 1800s though 1959. This ended during the 1960's thanks to the efforts of state and wildlife officials patrolling the area. However, turtle hunting continued to be legal around the main Hawai'ian Islands until 1975, when the State of Hawai'i banned all commercial hunting and commercial use of turtles. In 1978, green turtles received protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Thanks to this protection, green sea turtles are dramatically increasing in numbers. Under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, green turtles are listed as "threatened" in Hawai'i and "endangered" in other parts of the United States. Hunting, killing or harassing them is illegal. Source: "Sea Turtles, A Hawai'i Wildlife Guide" by Pacific Whale Foundation, 300 Ma'alaea Rd. Ste. 211 Wailuku, HI 96793 www.pacificwhale.org 800-942-5311. Portions of this brochure may be reproduced for educational purposes only with the written permission from Pacific Whale Foundation.

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