Bid to protect Hawaii’s endangered species moves forward

Hawaii Independent Staff

WASHINGTON — In a landmark legal agreement finalized today between the Center for Biological Diversity and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service the federal agency is required to make initial or final decisions on whether to add hundreds of imperiled plants and animals to the federal endangered species list by 2018.

The agreement includes the bright-red Scarlet Hawaiian honeycreeper (also known as the I’iwi), the black-footed albatross, the Wekiu bug and 67 other Hawaiian species,

“This historic agreement will give some of Hawaii’s most iconic and imperiled species a fighting chance to stave off extinction and survive for generations to come,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Climate change, habitat destruction, exotic species, and over-fishing have pushed many of Hawaii’s wildlife to the very brink of extinction and this agreement finally helps turn the tide back in their favor,”

In all, today’s agreement establishes legally binding deadlines for the Fish and Wildlife Service to decide on protections for 757 species around the country between now and 2018. In return, the Center will withdraw its legal opposition to a May 2011 agreement between the agency and another conservation group that the Center argued was too weak, unenforceable and missing key species.

Lists of the 757 species broken down by state, taxonomy, name and schedule of protection are available at

Species from Hawaii included in the agreement include:

Scarlet Hawaiian honeycreeper (I’iwi): This bright-red bird hovers like a hummingbird and has long been featured in the folklore and songs of native Hawaiians. It is threatened by climate change, which is causing mosquitoes that carry introduced diseases — including avian pox and malaria — to move into the honeycreeper’s higher-elevations refuges. It has been eliminated from low elevations on all islands by these diseases.

Black-footed albatross: A large, dark-plumed seabird that lives in northwestern Hawaii, the black-footed albatross is threatened by longline swordfish fisheries, which kill it as bycatch.

(The Center for Biological Diversity and allies petitioned to list this albatross as an endangered species in 2004. It is not on the candidate list. Under today’s agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will propose it for protection, determine it does not qualify, or find that it is warranted but precluded for protection in 2011.)

Wekiu bug: The Wekiu bug is a small, mostly black insect with microscopically tiny wings and the longest, thinnest appendages and head of any bug in its family. It lives at the top of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, where it feeds on other bugs blown onto some of the world’s most tropical snowfields. It stays warm through “antifreeze”-like chemicals in its blood. This rare bug is threatened by habitat loss, pollution and climate change.