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Restoring and Protecting the Islets of Hawaii

The Restoration and Protection of Hawaii’s Many Islets

I recently stumbled across a website that I found very enlightening and interesting.  If you are concerned about the environment at all, and the protection of Hawaiian wildlife, flora and fauna in particular, I think you might also find this website of interest.  It is run by the Offshore Islet Restoration Committee and includes pictures and brief descriptions of many of the endemic (found only in Hawaii) and indigenous (native to Hawaii, but also found elsewhere), as well as some of the problematic invasive (introduced) species of plants and animals.

For example, did you know that the common Lantana was introduced to Hawaii in 1858 as an ornamental shrub because of its colorful flowers?  I still find it hard to believe that people on the mainland “buy” lantana to take home and plant as part of their landscaping.

You may be as surprised as I was at the number of islets there are just surrounding the 8 major islands:

  • Big Island…4 islets
  • Maui…13 islets, including Molokini
  • Kahoolawe…2 islets
  • Lanai…5 islets
  • Molokai….9 islets
  • Oahu…16 islets, counting North and South Mokulua separately
  • Kauai…1 islet
  • Niihau…2 islets

These islets act as micro-ecosystems due to their isolation.  It is this isolation that allows for more success in controlling invasive species compared to other sites that are hard to control.  There are plants and animals that have been identified to inhabit some of these islets that are found nowhere else in Hawaii, and in many cases, the world.

The website also describes some of the efforts underway to restore and preserve the many islets that surround the major Hawaiian islands.  The following was copied from their website


“Hawaii’s offshore islets are the last refuge for many rare coastal species and hold the hope for becoming a safe haven for many more. Many islets are relatively isolated from the threats that plague Hawaii’s native species, over 470 of which are listed as threatened, endangered or candidate species under the Endangered Species Act. Because of this isolation, many offshore islets in Hawaii still harbor rich coastal resources, including 22 species of seabirds in the largest Hawaii seabird colonies outside of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. Five new species were first described from Hawaii offshore islets. Eight threatened and endangered species are currently found on the islets and 8 additional federal species of concern are present. The islets are home to large numbers of endemic (i.e., species found only in Hawaii) plants, insects, birds, and marine creatures. See the ‘Species’ section of this website for more information. Twelve islets are federally designated critical habitat for endangered plants and are considered essential to the recovery of these species. The ‘Islets’ section of this website includes information on the 43 largest and most biologically important islets.”  From

And, I also wanted to share this list of conservation efforts you can take to minimize your impact on this fragile environment.


Visitors to offshore islets can help conserve these fragile coastal areas by observing the following rules of ‘islet etiquette’:

• Obey all posted signs

• Leave pets at home and don’t release unwanted pets into the wild

• Stay away from all seabirds and bird nesting areas; many birds nest in burrows and it’s easy to crush the burrows by accident

• Check your clothes and gear (especially shoes and socks) before you come to the islets and remove any seeds or insects

• Pack out everything that you pack in

• Don’t damage the plants

• Remember that camping and campfires are not allowed



Share the Awareness


While living in paradise is a wonderful thing, it also comes with some responsibilities to preserve the very things that make it paradise.  Just as we’ve become environmentally conscious when it comes to treading lightly on the reefs, protecting whales, dolphins, and turtles, there are hundreds of lesser known species of plants and animals that also need protection.  Unfortunately, the very fact that they are endangered or threatened means that we don’t come into contact with them often, so we are less conscious of their existence or need for protection.

Hopefully, you’ll share this article and help to spread the word and raise awareness that these species need our protection even more.


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