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Oil spills: Is Hawaii at risk? Is Hawaii prepared?

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By Linda Elliott

With the recent BP accident in the Gulf of Mexico, our hearts go out to the families, residents and the wildlife that will suffer. This tragedy is reaching all the way to our islands as professionals from Hawaii have gone or are preparing to go to assist the cleanup and environmental response.

Linda Elliott

Although Hawaii has no offshore oil platforms we are still at high risk of major oil spills from tankers and other vessel traffic, as more than 90 percent or our energy comes from oil. On land, oil transporting pipelines and storage tanks create additional risk.

Hawaii is also at risk from natural disasters such as hurricanes and tsunamis that can affect critical wildlife habitats and populations. There are also disease outbreaks that can effect critical populations of threatened native birds. The recent avian botulism outbreak on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge affecting more than 150 critically endangered Laysan Ducks is just one example.

You may be surprised to know that there is currently no wildlife facility in the Pacific Islands to respond to these types of emergencies, though Hawaii has more endangered species per square mile than anywhere else in the world.

The coastal lands, reef ecosystems and waters of the Hawaiian archipelago provide habitat for more than 14 million seabirds, several endangered wetland and remote island birds, Hawaiian monk seals, hawksbill and green sea turtles, more than a dozen species of whales and dolphins and more than 7,000 marine fish and invertebrate species.

Now, with the help of a growing number of supporters from throughout Hawaii and the nation, the construction of the Hawaii Wildlife Center is almost complete on Hawaii’s Big Island. The Hawaii Wildlife Center, located on 2.2 acres in North Kohala, will be the first oiled wildlife response and rehabilitation facility for native Hawaiian wildlife. Trained staff and volunteers will provide the leadership and manpower necessary to respond effectively to Hawaii ’s wildlife response needs.

The HWC will also respond 24/7 to treat sick and injured native birds from throughout the archipelago. It will provide the best achievable medical and husbandry care for sick, injured and orphaned native wildlife, including those affected by natural and man-made disasters, returning those successfully treated back to the wild.

The animals in care will provide hands-on information and experience on these rare species, and also benefit the overall wildlife populations by providing a resource for public education about each individual and the needs of the entire population.

Construction of the Center began in 2009 and the exterior of the building is now complete. The last 16 percent of the funds necessary to complete the interior must still be raised for HWC to open its doors this year ─ hopefully before the next disaster occurs.

During my career, I have provided the necessary skills at 20 emergency responses throughout the world from Alaska to Africa. Because of my expertise, I am on alert around the clock and am currently on stand by to assist with efforts on the Gulf Coast for seabird, waterbird and shorebird rescue.

From experience, I know with certainty that Hawaii needs this critical wildlife response facility now. If you are interested in helping, email me at info@hawaiiwildlifecenter.org. For more information about the project, visit www.hawaiiwildlifecenter.org

(Linda Elliott is the president of Hawaii Wildlife Center in North Kohala.)

One Response to “Oil spills: Is Hawaii at risk? Is Hawaii prepared?”

  1. karin247 says:

    Here are a couple of sources of updated information on the Gulf oil spill taken from a White House press release:

    The first is the website of the coalition of groups, led by the National Incident Commander for the BP oil spill, Admiral Thad Allen of the Coast Guard. It has a number of links to assistance for those affected by the spill and many other resources:
    http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com/

    In order to keep the Nation aware of everything its government is doing in response to the spill, the White House has also created a web page that includes a daily report of the ongoing Administration-wide response to the Deepwater BP Oil Spill:
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/deepwater-bp-oil-spill/

    – Editor

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