Endangered Species In Hawaii

| Suggest an Edit

Hawaii has been referred to, not necessarily flatteringly, as the “endangered species capital of the world.” The islands’ physical isolation means plants and animals carried here by wind, water and wings have had millenia to evolve into their own unique species found nowhere else on earth. Human encroachment into previously undisturbed habitats has threatened the survival of many of these rare, native species. The U.S. government says 377 species native to Hawaii are endangered.

 The Latest

The U.S. Army’s efforts to reduce impacts on endangered and native species of plants and animals on its many land holdings includes a rat eradication program. A campaign that would use a bucket hung from a helicopter to disperse rat poison across large swaths of inaccessible forest for the first time on the main Hawaiian Islands is being discussed.


Many plants and animals have become endangered and eventually extinct throughout the course of the earth’s history. Recently, the rate of extinctions has increased as plants and animals lost their native habitats and were forced to adapt to new surroundings and circumstances.

Of concern to researchers are the coastal reefs of coral that affect the supply for Hawaii’s commercial fishermen.  Warmer oceans, as much as one degree over the last 58 years, have caused coral animals on the reefs to bleach out a process which can kill them. Smaller fish that feed on the corals are the start of the food chain for larger fish that lead upward to commercial fish such as Ahi and Mahi-mahi, a staple at Hawaii tourist restaurants. There is also a concern about ocean bathers who use sunscreen containing the chemical oxybenzone that is destructive to coral. Loss of the coral reefs would impact about 80 percent  of tourists who like to snorkel among them.

In Hawaii in particular, the expansion of human society into undeveloped areas has put pressure on the ecosystem. The introduction — both deliberately and accidentally — of alien plants and animals has decimated Hawaii’s native plants and creatures.

Whalers were said to have introduced mosquitoes to Lahaina on Maui in the 1820s, causing long-term trouble for Hawaii’s birds. The sandalwood trade, which decimated the population of one of the islands’ native trees, is another example of how early Western contact foreshadowed the future impact to the ecosystem.

Lists of Endangered and Threatened Species

In addition to the dozens of species that have become extinct, the official list of endangered species in the United States is created under the Federal Endangered Species Act and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a bureau in the Department of Interior, under its Endangered Species Program. The Fish and Wildlife Service lists 377 different Hawaii species that are endangered and also has a lengthy list of threatened and endangered species in the Pacific Islands that includes mammals, reptiles, birds and many plants.

Of those 377 Hawaii species, 58 are animals and 319 are plants. Among the most recognizable is the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, a marine mammal that can become entangled in fishing gear and is threatened by exposure to disease, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Mother seals with their pups also suffer harassment. Seals who use coastlines for breeding and basking in the sun after eating fish have not developed evasive skills on land. In the 19th Century, seals were killed for their oil and pelts while fisherman have at times killed seals for taking their catch. In 2010, Hawaii passed a state law to supplement the Endangered Species Act, making it a felony to deliberately harm a monk seal.

Green Sea Turtles, called “honu” in Hawaiian, are another prominent threatened species. Some of the other commonly known endangered species are the albatross, the humpback whale and the Hawaiian goose known locally as nene.

Internationally, the International Union for Conservation of Nature publishes a “red list” of species, arranged from “extinct” in the extreme to “extinct in the wild,” “critically endangered,” “endangered,” “vulnerable,” “near threatened,” and “least concern.” A search of the IUCN red list reveals that 539 different species native to Hawaii are endangered today.

The World Wildlife Federation has a map tool that lists of hundreds of endangered species in Hawaii. Other lists can be found at endangeredspecie.com and earthsendangered.com.

Key Players

Have feedback? Suggestions? Email Us!


September 2017

Tuesday, September 19

Once-Plentiful Hawaii Bird Now Protected By Endangered Species Act

Monday, September 18

Another Growing Threat To Hawaii’s Coral Reefs: Invasive Algae

August 2017

Tuesday, August 8

Monk Seal Pup To Be Relocated From Waikiki Beach

July 2017

Wednesday, July 26

Kauai Man Gets 4 Years In Prison For Harassing Monk Seal

Monday, July 24

We Do Practically Nothing To Control Wild Cats Threatening Rare Seals And Birds

June 2017

Thursday, June 1

Corals Are Dying At Hawaii’s Most Popular Snorkeling Spot

March 2017

Thursday, March 30

Bret Yager: Scientists Race To Help Hawaii Corals Survive

Friday, March 17

In Search of Hawaii’s Mysterious False Killer Whales

February 2017

Tuesday, February 14

Are Hawaii’s Wind Farms Killing Too Many Hoary Bats?

January 2017

Tuesday, January 31

Documents Reveal New Details In Albatross Massacre

November 2016

Tuesday, November 1

Denby Fawcett: Why Are Kaena Point Albatross Killers Still Free?

October 2016

Monday, October 24

69 Percent Of Voters Want Feral Cats Removed From Hawaii

September 2016

Wednesday, September 28

Species Added To Endangered List

Monday, September 19

Hawaii’s Honeycreeper May Get Federal Protection

Thursday, September 15

The Military Tries To Sell Itself As Positive Environmental Force

August 2016

Wednesday, August 17

Hawaii’s State Of The Environment: Good, Bad And Ugly

How Cat Poop Is Killing Endangered Seals

July 2016

Tuesday, July 19

How We’re Hurting Endangered Monk Seals

March 2016

Tuesday, March 29

Critical Habitat Designated On Maui

February 2016

Monday, February 29

Will Hawaii Help Protect, Or Kill, Elephants And Rhinos?

August 2015

Tuesday, August 18

Critical Habitat for Hawaiian Monk Seals Expands by 7,000 Square Miles

June 2015

Thursday, June 11

Cluster of False Killer Whales Tagged for First Time Off Kona

April 2015

Monday, April 20

NOAA Wants Humpback Whales Off Endangered Species List

March 2015

Friday, March 20

Feds Keep Protections for Hawaii Green Sea Turtles

August 2014

Thursday, August 21

‘If You’re the Bad Guy, Everybody Needs to Know’

Monday, August 11

Should the U.S. Expand Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument?

June 2014

Monday, June 30

Respect the Locals: Sea Turtle Selfies Are Uncool — and Illegal

December 2013

Thursday, December 5

Who Would Kill This Monk Seal?

August 2013

Friday, August 16

Can Spy Cams Save Hawaiian Monk Seals?

April 2013

Tuesday, April 2

Hawaii DOT Refusal to Switch Out Lights Means Likely Federal Indictment

March 2013

Saturday, March 2

NOAA Shelves Plan To Move Monk Seals to Main Hawaiian Islands

September 2012

Saturday, September 29

Reward Offered for Info on Illegal Sea Turtle Killings

August 2012

Friday, August 24

NOAA Program: Kill The Sharks To Save The Baby Monk Seals

April 2012

Thursday, April 26

Latest Monk Seal Killing Prompts Environmental Groups to Up Reward to $40,000

February 2012

Wednesday, February 22

Stop In the Name Of the Endangered Species Law: Put That Sea Turtle Back

January 2012

Wednesday, January 25

State Pushes Back Against Federal Monk Seal Protections

December 2011

Thursday, December 29

Third Monk Seal Found Dead on Molokai

September 2011

Tuesday, September 6

Hawaiian Nene Being Kicked Off Kauai

August 2011

Friday, August 12

Fishermen Oppose Extra Protections for Hawaiian Monk Seals

June 2011

Thursday, June 30

Slideshow: Saving Hawaii’s Rarest Orchid

Wednesday, June 29

Saving Hawaii’s Rarest Orchid

Friday, June 3

Malama Da Aina, Except at Kaena Point?

May 2011

Friday, May 27

‘Strong, Swift Action’ Needed to Control Big Island Deer

Tuesday, May 24

There’s a Ram Living Above Pearl City

Big Island Plans Response to Deer Sightings

Monday, May 23

Rescuing Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals — By Moving Them To The City

Wednesday, May 18

Kauai Bird Plan OK With Feds, Not Yet With State

March 2011

Tuesday, March 29

Drawing the Line on How to Protect Hawaii Seabirds

January 2011

Friday, January 14

Once Adversaries, Aila and Army Now Teaming Up

November 2010

Saturday, November 6

Buck the Firds? Kauai’s Championship Football Game Under the Lights

September 2010

Thursday, September 16

Big Island Urges State to Protect Reef Fish

Friday, September 10

Kauai Admits To Causing Seabird Deaths

Friday, September 3

Kauai Wants License to Kill 15 Birds Per Year

August 2010

Friday, August 20

Maui Could Be First County To Protect Aquarium Fish

Thursday, August 19

Lights Out: Birds Trump Friday Night Football

July 2010

Wednesday, July 21

UPDATE: Justices Decline to Reconsider Turtle Bay

Saturday, July 10

Islands Bear the Brunt of Climate Change

June 2010

Wednesday, June 30

Ten Years, Ten Endangered Species Indictments

Tuesday, June 15

Background On Endangered Species In Hawaii

Rats Threaten Native Species, Army Steps Up Attack