What Makes the Kaua‘i Seabird HCP Unique?


The HCP document being written by the Kaua‘i Seabird Habitat Conservation Program (KSHCP) is unique in many ways. One reason is that this HCP is being created to address on-going incidental take. The usual process for an HCP​ is to describe the proposed activities, and for the applicant to develop an approved plan for mitigating the requested level of incidental take. In the case of the Kaua‘i Seabird HCP, the island of Kaua‘i is already inhabited, and lights are a critical part of the infrastructure to support safe and thriving communities. Through the HCP process, we strive to meet the needs of the community and comply with environmental laws created to protected rare and endangered species, in this case a species that remains almost exclusively on the island of Kaua‘i! 

Map of the Main Hawaiian Islands. By USGS Pacific Islands Water Science Center.

Another reason this HCP is unique is that the program will provide a conservation plan for a pool of eligible applicants. This allows for coordinated and more effective mitigation (conservation actions) and for long term management of a larger, more comprehensive HCP, versus each entity preparing its own HCP. The Kaua‘i Seabird HCP will cover take from the effects of light attraction but not line collision. Incidental take of endangered seabirds due to line collision will be addressed in a separate HCP developed by Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC), who owns and operates power lines on Kaua‘i.

A third reason the Kaua‘i Seabird HCP is unique is that the endangered seabirds​ covered by the plan are a special part of island heritage. These birds are very rare and some are endemic to (found exclusively on) the Hawaiian Islands. The band-rumped storm petrel (Oceanodroma castro) is found in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, including the islands of Hawai‘i and specifically Kaua‘i. The Hawaiian petrel (Pterodroma sandwichensis) nests on all the main Hawaiian Islands, including important and potentially large nesting colonies on Kaua‘i. The Newell’s shearwater (Puffinus newelli) populations on other Hawaiian islands have been severely diminished, and it is believed that over 90% of the remaining breeding colonies are on the Island of Kaua‘i. Thus any threats to the continued persistence of this species on Kaua‘i could mean permanent extinction!


The Kaua‘i Seabird HCP refers to the Habitat Conservation Plan, the legal document associated with the Endangered Species Act. The KSHCP refers to the Kaua‘i Seabird Habitat Conservation Program. It is a program because it contains many components, all of which work together to form a means of ensuring legal protection for applicants and long term conservation for endangered seabirds. This is the project through which the HCP is being written.

The state of Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is the implementing entity (IE) for the Kaua‘i Seabird HCP. The implementing entity is the organization responsible for administering and coordinating all facets of the HCP.  This includes compiling, preparing, and submitting necessary information to the regulatory wildlife agencies, DLNR and USFWS, to enable the agencies to determine compliance with the terms and conditions of each ITP/ITL issued under the Kauai Seabird Habitat Conservation Program (KSHCP).

The Kaua‘i Seabird HCP will outline a series of minimization goals and guidelines intended to reduce take. Minimization describes any action taken by an applicant or permittee to reduce activities causing take.

Probably the most important component of an HCP is the mitigation plan. This plan will outline a series of mitigation actions or measures intended to offset the potential adverse effects of a proposed activity on species covered by an HCP. Actions must address specific needs of the species involved and be manageable and enforceable. These actions may take many forms, such as preservation (via acquisition or conservation easement) of existing habitat, enhancement or restoration of degraded or a former habitat, creation of new habitats, establishment of buffer areas around existing habitats, modifications of land use practices, and restrictions on access. For the Kaua‘i Seabird HCP, the primary mitigation actions will be creation of a predator proof fence enclosure, and social attraction of birds into the enclosure. This type of conservation action has been highly successful for seabirds in other areas around the world:

Dr. Stephen Kress on Restoring Seabird Colonies via Social Attraction

Audubon Project Puffin

Fluttering Shearwaters in New Zealand as a Proxy for Newell's Shearwaters on Kaua‘i

Outreach is also a critical component of the KSHCP. The KSHCP Outreach Plan will aim to educate businesses and the public about seabird friendly lighting options, encourage recovery of downed seabirds, and promote awareness about seabird issues.

The Save Our Shearwaters (SOS)​ program provides the community of Kaua‘i with a wildlife rehabilitation facility and trained professionals that are ready to respond to incidents of downed or injured seabirds, particularly during the fledging season from September 15 – December 15. Since 1979, SOS has recovered and released over 29,440 seabirds back into the wild.

The Kaua‘i Seabird HCP will include an adaptive management plan designed to allow for flexibility in response to unforeseen circumstances during the implementation of conservation actions over the course of the plan’s 30 year term. Adaptive management refers to a science-based approach for managing uncertainty. This approach aims to incorporate what is learned from management, monitoring, and intensive research into future management actions.

Monitoring and reporting the results of conservation actions taken under the HCP are critical to the success of the plan and the ability to properly implement an adaptive management strategy.

Throughout the HCP process, the Kaua‘i Seabird Habitat Conservation Program will be working to maintain active relationships with applicants and landowners with property where seabirds are present.

That's great, but what about the planning history?