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Sandy Beach Park lights temporarily turned off in support of wildlife

O‘AHU -- To help ensure the safe passage of Hawaiian Green sea turtle (honu) hatchlings and Native Hawaiian seabird fledglings at Sandy Beach Park, the City and County of Honolulu has temporarily turned off several of the lights at the popular beach park.

In conjunction with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, Mālama i Nā Honu, and the DesignLight Consortium, the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) and electricians from the Department of Facility Maintenance deactivated approximately a dozen free-standing and comfort station lights at the Hālona Blow Hole-side of the beach park last night.

Turning off these lights reduces the risk of artificial light disorienting the honu hatchlings and seabird fledglings. The lights are scheduled to remain deactivated until biologists confirm the hatchlings have fledged from the Sandy nests. This is anticipated to occur in mid-November 2023.

"As stewards of these public lands, it is important for us to find a balance between the environmental, recreational, and cultural needs of parks users and the wildlife which enjoy these shared spaces," said DPR Director Laura H. Thielen. "We hope that turning off these lights is a big first step in giving these precious young wildlife a better chance at survival, as well as an opportunity for the public to become more informed about this nesting situation. Mahalo to our government, non-profit, and volunteer partners who have guided much of the protection and education efforts for wildlife conservation."

The first of six honu nests were discovered in mid-July, with approximately 72 eggs believed to be buried in the sites stretching from the undeveloped, blowhole-side of the beach all the way to Ocean Safety Lifeguard Tower 4B. From that point, biologists and volunteers established barriers around the nests to protect the sites and provide shielding from nearby lights. Hatchlings tend to emerge from their buried nests at night, guided by moonlight and other celestial light sources towards the ocean. This makes the young honu prone to disorientation from artificial lighting, potentially leading them away from their intended ocean destination. Initially, biologists worked with the City to deluminate the light closest to most of the nests, but it was later determined additional deactivation was necessary to ensure the hatchlings were not led astray in their quest to reach the ocean for the first time.

"Our team has documented a significant increase in nesting by honu since 2020," said Sheldon Plentovich, PhD, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Unfortunately, hatchling sea turtles can be easily disoriented by nighttime lighting. To help out honu, we can use artificial lighting responsibly by minimizing light, using amber or red-colored bulbs, and shielding light so that the bulb is not visible from the beach."

Young seabirds can experience similar disorientation from artificial lights, which may result in exhaustion and the birds falling to the ground. This makes them more vulnerable to predators, starvation, or vehicular collisions, and is referred to as "fallout." This typically occurs from September to December. Additional coordination to address impacts of park lighting on Hawaiian seabirds is being conducted with DLNR.

"DLNR greatly appreciates the proactive efforts from the City and County of Honolulu towards the conservation and protection of our native seabirds and honu," said Afsheen Siddiqi, Wildlife Biologist with DLNR. "We encourage any member of the public that finds a downed seabird that is away from their burrow to bring them to a drop-off location or a vet clinic like Feather and Fur, who have been active partners in seabird response over the years". Drop-off locations during the seabird fall out season can be found here:

Sandy Beach Park does not have established evening closure hours. We urge members of the public to please respect both the wildlife and park facilities while the lights are temporarily turned off to avoid the possibility of nighttime closure hours being established on a short-term basis.

Previously, DPR has worked with Marine Corps Base Hawai‘i and the Waimānalo community to suspend camping at Bellows Field Beach Park in support of similar turtle nesting protection efforts.

Hawaiian Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) nesting season typically lasts from mid-April through November. These culturally significant creatures are endangered in Hawaiian waters and are therefore protected under Federal and State Law. Physically relocating the honu nesting sites is only considered in extreme and rare situations where other protection measures are not possible. For more information, please visit the U.S. Fish and Wildfire Species Spotlight website.

There are a variety of Hawaiian seabirds observed around O‘ahu, including (but not limited to): albatross, frigatebirds, petrels, shearwater, terns, and tropicbirds. For more information about the beautiful variety of birds around the Hawaiian Islands visit:

If you need an auxiliary aid/service, other accommodations due to a disability, or an interpreter for a language other than English in reference to this announcement, please contact the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation at (808) 768-3003 on weekdays from 7:45 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. or email at least three business days before the scheduled event. Without sufficient advanced notice, it may not be possible to fulfill requests.


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