HONOLULU (CN) – A resort on Kauai emits so much light it is killing imperiled seabirds, who are drawn to light, and circle the lights at night “until they fall to the ground from exhaustion or strike human-made structures,” environmentalists say in Federal Court. They sued the St. Regis Princeville Resort, which they say is the single largest source of light that attracts the two bird species.
Three environmental organizations and a native Hawaiian group say that in the past decade, the resort has been responsible for nearly a quarter of all downed Newell’s shearwater, recovered live or dead.
The species leaves its nests under dense forest on steep volcanic slopes before dawn to forage at sea, and returns after dark. Bright lights at the resort, on the relatively undeveloped north shore of Kauai – also an important flyway – attract the shearwaters, which circle the lights until they fall exhausted to the ground. There they are easy prey for cats or dogs, and endangered by traffic, dehydration or starvation.
The federally threatened species has declined by 75 percent in the past 15 years, the groups say. The lights are a special danger to fledglings, which leave their nests from late September to early December.
The lights also harm the endangered Hawaii petrel, which forages for long distances at sea. Hawaiian petrels have been known to fly 10,000 kilometers (6,100 miles) on a single foraging trip.
Both species are native to Hawaii and have low productivity, which makes their continued existence even more precarious.
Hui Ho’Omalu I Ka ‘Aina, the Conservation Council for Hawaii, the Center for Biological Diversity and the American Bird Conservancy are represented in their lawsuit against the Princeville Hotel companies by David Henkin of Earthjustice. They seek injunctive relief.