(CN) – The St. Regis Princeville Resort in Kauai, Hawaii, has agreed to dim its lighting to settle claims that bright lights caused the unnecessary death of two kinds of threatened seabirds.
Three environmental organizations and a native Hawaiian group sued last May, blaming the resort for nearly a quarter of all downed Newell’s shearwaters in the past decade.
Newell’s shearwaters nest on inland mountains and use air currents to fly far out to sea to feed, leaving before dawn and returning after dark. It’s theorized that the seabirds use the moon’s reflection on the water to help guide them to the ocean.
Bright lights at the resort, located on the relatively undeveloped north shore of Kauai, attract the shearwaters. The birds circle the lights until falling exhausted to the ground, where they can be hit by cars or preyed upon by domestic pets, or they simply die of dehydration or starvation.
The lights also harm the endangered Hawaii petrel, which can fly up to 10,000 kilometers on a single trip to forage at sea, according to conservationists.
Under the settlement, the resort will reduce its lighting and fund seabird restoration programs. It will also seek a permit under the Endangered Species Act, which would allow incidental killing of the species.
Last September, Kauai County pleaded guilty to violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The county acknowledged that lighting at various facilities caused 18 of the protected seabirds to die between 2005 and 2009.
Under the plea agreement, the county agreed to limit night games at its football stadiums in the period from mid-September to mid-December, when young shearwaters make their first flight to the open ocean. The county will also pay $10,000 for each killed Newell’s shearwater.
The environmental groups’ statement on the resort settlement did not cite any specific monetary figures.
The federally threatened Newell’s shearwater has declined by 75 percent in the past 15 years, the conservationists claimed.