A pu, pule, hula and chants celebrating native Hawaiian seabirds opened the 46th annual meeting of the Pacific Seabird Group that brought hundreds of people to the Aqua Kaua‘i Beach Resort Wednesday night, according to a news release from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
“We all have the common mission of protecting and enhancing seabird populations here in Hawai‘i and across the Pacific,” said Dr. André Raine, project coordinator for the Kaua‘i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, and the Local Chair for this year’s annual meeting of seabird experts.
This is only the second time this large group of seabird experts from across the Pacific have gathered for their annual meeting in Kaua‘i. In addition to the decidedly Hawaiian flair of the opening evening, 147 science presentations over the course of three days focus on the plight of native seabirds from across the Pacific and the impacts of introduced predators, habitat loss and other human-caused factors.
“This week is our opportunity to network, share our research and learn lessons that will help all of us better manage and preserve seabird populations at this critical time in which some species are so close to disappearing forever,” Raine said.
Kūpuna Sabra Kauka, a well-known Kaua‘i cultural practitioner and educator, opened the conference with three of her students blowing conch shells (pu) in all four directions. She then offered several chants or pule to help center attendees to focus on care for Pacific seabirds, some of which are now on the edge of extinction. Forty participants brought water from their home countries or states for a wai ceremony, with small amounts of water poured one after another into a koa bowl. A local hālau offered dance and song, before Kauka recited a chant penned by another famous cultural practitioner, Dr. Sam Gon III. Words were illustrated with photographs of Hawaiian seabirds and paid homage to the birds that are critical components of the overall ecosystem and continue to face increasingly daunting challenges.
As well as presentations from countries across the Pacific, there are a large number of Hawai‘i-focused presentations that ran Friday and will run today. They include talks on seabirds ingesting plastics and the impacts of feral cats and other introduced predators on seabird populations, as well as discussions on methods and new technologies to prevent powerline collisions — a particularly serious issue on Kaua‘i — and predator control.
“There is a lot of focus on all the threats our seabirds face, but also a lot of success stories, including presentations on the progress we’re making in Kaua‘i’s mountainous regions to keep predators out of seabird colonies and successful petrel and shearwater restoration projects throughout the Hawaiian islands and beyond,” Raine said. “Considering how important seabirds are to Hawaii and Hawaiian culture, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that they continue to exist on our islands for future generations”
The DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife is one of 17 government or commercial sponsors of the annual meeting.