INTRODUCTION TO THE ISLETS
Hawaii’s offshore islets are the last refuge for many rare coastal species and hold the hope for becoming a safe haven for many more. Many islets are relatively isolated from the threats that plague Hawaii’s native species, over 470 of which are listed as threatened, endangered or candidate species under the Endangered Species Act. Because of this isolation, many offshore islets in Hawaii still harbor rich coastal resources, including 22 species of seabirds in the largest Hawaii seabird colonies outside of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. Five new species were first described from Hawaii offshore islets. Eight threatened and endangered species are currently found on the islets and 8 additional federal species of concern are present. The islets are home to large numbers of endemic (i.e., species found only in Hawaii) plants, insects, birds, and marine creatures. See the ‘Species’ section of this website for more information. Twelve islets are federally designated critical habitat for endangered plants and are considered essential to the recovery of these species. The ‘Islets’ section of this website includes information on the 43 largest and most biologically important islets.
THE NEED FOR ISLET CONSERVATION
To address the need for a coordinated statewide program for islet conservation, the Offshore Islet Restoration Committee (OIRC) was formed in September 2002. The OIRC is a multi-agency group dedicated to the restoration and management of selected offshore islets in Hawaii. See more about OIRC in the ‘About Us’ and ‘Outreach’ sections of this website.
As a first step in islet conservation, OIRC is conducting statewide biological surveys of birds, plants, insects, and marine organisms on many islets, some of which have not been visited in over 20 years. Based on survey results, high priority islets are being selected for biological restoration, which will include eradication of invasive alien species, such as rats, rabbits, and weeds, and the re-introduction of native species. Restoration is a labor-intensive activity and the small size of islets makes it practical to carry out restoration actions that would be difficult or impossible in larger areas. In this way, islets can become microcosms of the way Hawaii used to be. Because they are often isolated and difficult to access, restored islets have a good chance of remaining relatively safe from re-invasion by alien species and the other problems present on the larger Hawaiian Islands. Offshore islets can also serve as laboratories and classrooms, teaching us how to refine restoration techniques and providing examples of the problems and opportunities of ecosystem conservation.
Past and ongoing offshore islet conservation projects are described in the ‘Projects on Offshore Islets’ section of this website. Several website with information about Hawaii conservation are listed in the ‘Links’ section.
This section provides links to recent and ongoing offshore islet conservation projects. For example, OIRC partners conducted Hawaii’s first aerial broadcast of rodenticides on an offshore islet in February 2008, on Molokai’s Mokapu Islet. Planning is underway to do the same thing on Lehua, just north of Niihau.
You can download information here about the Mokapu Island Restoration Project:
- Final Environmental Assessment for the Mokapu Island Rat Eradication ( Download pdf * )
|ISLET ETIQUETTEVisitors to offshore islets can help conserve these fragile coastal areas by observing the following rules of ‘islet etiquette’:• Obey all posted signs• Leave pets at home and don’t release unwanted pets into the wild
• Stay away from all seabirds and bird nesting areas; many birds nest in burrows and it’s easy to crush the burrows by accident
• Check your clothes and gear (especially shoes and socks) before you come to the islets and remove any seeds or insects
• Pack out everything that you pack in
• Don’t damage the plants
• Remember that camping and campfires are not allowed