Lights on, birds safe

LIHUE — No seabirds were grounded during the first night football game during fledgling season in seven years on Kauai.

Sarah Blane, county spokeswoman, said the county received reports from their monitors Wednesday afternoon confirming no seabirds were observed grounded or down during the game, or after the game.

“A post-game sweep of the facility was conducted and no seabirds were observed or found grounded or down,” Blane said.

The first of the night games was held Friday, hours after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the county regarding the night games.

Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr. announced his signing of the MOU on Sept. 18, ushering in the reinstatement of four night football games on Kauai this season, but USFWS took more time signing the document.

The entity was just following protocol, according to USFWS public affairs officer Holly Richards, and the process was completed within a breath of kickoff for the first game.

“The MOU was signed Friday afternoon,” she said.

The reinstatement of night games this season relied upon the MOU to provide some legal protection for the county should any seabirds be injured or killed during the games, played during fledgling season between Sept. 15 and Dec. 15

As part of the agreement between the two entities, a trained team monitored Hanapepe Stadium Friday night for any downed Newell’s shearwaters or Hawaiian petrels.

The practice will continue throughout the scheduled night games this season, using members of Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps to keep their eyes on the skies.

Nighttime football games ended on Kauai between mid-September and mid-December in 2009 when the County of Kauai pleaded guilty to violations that resulted in the deaths of more than 18 migratory ‘a’o birds, or Newell’s shearwaters.

It was the lights that allegedly brought down the seabirds, and the county has retrofitted its stadium lights with bird-friendly lighting.

The next night games are scheduled on Saturdays, Sept. 30, Oct. 7 and Nov. 4.

Carvalho said the games are a result of the hard work on the part of USFWS and the County Attorney’s Office, Department of Education, and the Kauai Interscholastic Federation.

“I know the coaches, parents and students made a lot of effort to move Waimea’s homecoming game from Saturday to Friday night, but it was worth it,” he said.

He said the county continues its commitment to work toward the joint Kauai Seabird Habitat Conservation Plan.

“Our goal has always been to create a win-win for both the protection of our endangered seabirds and our keiki. I believe we’re moving in the right direction,” Carvalho said.

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