The Hawaiian Ecosystem Needs Our Help
The Islands of Hawaii are among the most remote locations on earth. In fact, being 2,390 miles from California; 3,850 miles from Japan; 4,900 miles from China; and 5,280 miles from the Philippines, makes Hawaii the most isolated island area on the face of the earth. With this isolation comes a vast and unique ecosystem. Sadly, many of Hawaii’s native species are facing a loss of habitat thanks in big part to the encroachment of humans into the islands. Efforts are being made to protect Hawaii’s native animal and plant life, but in the end it falls upon Humanity as a whole to respect this one-of-a-kind location so to ensure the survival of its original inhabitants. Nearly fifty birds, many of which are found only on the islands, are endangered, a figure nearly matched by the number of already officially extinct birds. Still, these birds are flying high compared to Island populations of insects and plant life, which see endangered totals of over one-hundred with countless species already extinct forever. The Islands of Hawaii play host to more than just unique birds and other land based creatures. The crystal clear waters surrounding the coast of the islands are home to some of the most diverse marine life on the planet. Take some time to snorkel around the Islands and you will easily see a rainbow of color swimming among Hawaii’s coastal reefs. Still, years ago, that rainbow was even more colorful, as pollution, fishing, invasive species, and general human activity have caused more than fourteen fish that frequent Hawaiian waters to be placed on the endangered species list. Couple this with the already over 60 mollusks that are now considered extinct and we can see how Hawaii’s waters certainly need protection and care as well. Hawaii’s small population of native mammals can be referenced completely simply by looking at the endangered species list. The Hoary Bat and the Hawaiian Monk Seal are both critically endangered. Efforts are well underway to help restore populations of these unique creatures, but the future prospects are indeed under concern. The North Pacific Right Whale, which ranges across the pacific but frequents the warm Hawaiian waters, is also considered an endangered mammal. As of November 2010, the false killer whale is being suggested as an addition to that list. This third largest member of the dolphin family is facing some 29 recognized threats to its survival (including fishing nets), and conservationists are concerned that the local population of only about 150 will be forced into inbreeding or simply die out. To lose or even endanger populations of Hawaiian animals threatens destroying the heart of what makes Hawaii such a popular and distinctive location. As human interest and exposure to the island and the surrounding waters increases, conscious efforts need to be maintained if we are going to keep the Hawaiian natural identity we have all come to appreciate. Minimal impact tourism, including Eco Tourism, is a good place to raise awareness while enjoying ones vacation. Efforts to rid Hawaii’s dependence on fossil fuel by implementing solar and wind based energy projects, will surely decrease by-product pollution from the more archaic established techniques. Additionally, places like the island of Maui are taking steps to rid the island of certain plastic waste that otherwise typically finds its way into the oceans. On your next trip to the Hawaiian Islands, consider touring with eco-friendly companies and maybe take a second to help Mālama ‘Āina (care for the land) by throwing away that next piece of garbage you see littering this beautiful state. It’s much easier to move a bit of rubbish from a sidewalk to a nearby trash can than to fish it out of the belly of a dead dolphin or Monk seal pup. Together we can ensure that Hawaii’s original animal and plant residents survive to be discovered by future generations of visitors and locals alike. Your considerate efforts are sure to give you satisfaction, and may even bring some of that ancient Hawaiian “Mana” into your life.