LIHUE, Hawaii (AP) — Hawaii officials are dropping rat poison on a small uninhabited, crescent-shaped island that’s designated as a seabird sanctuary, but marine wildlife advocates are not in support of the helicopter drops.

Lehua Island has a rat infestation that needs to be taken care of, officials said. But the advocates are worried that the poison will negatively impact marine life.

The state commenced the first of three planned poison drops on Wednesday, which Kauai resident Harold Vidinha watched from his fishing boat.

Vidinha said he is all about saving birds and killing rats, but is worried the method of delivery isn’t right.

Lehua Island, a seabird sanctuary, is also overrun with rats

Island Conservation

The helicopter drops poisonous pellets that the rats eat, in theory. But some people are worried the pellets will run off into the ocean and be eaten by marine life.

“That’s what killed the fish, we believe, in 2009, and now we’re going to see the results from this one because lot and lot went into the water,” Vidinha said.

Department of Land and Natural Resource officials, however, said the failed rat eradication attempt in 2009 did not cause the fish die-off.

“The marine environment will be monitored closely to ensure that what is expected based on science and the studies that have been done is that there will be no impact really to fish or sea turtles or monk seals,” said Heath Packard, communications director for Island Conservation.

Mele Khalsa, an island restoration specialist with Island Conservation, said she likes how the pellets are sitting on the island after the first of three drops.

“There was a lot of concern about how steep the island is and bait rolling around, but we haven’t observed that at all,” Khalsa said. “It has been sticking nicely. It has been an even distribution. I think that the rats are hungry and I think they will go right for it.”

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