KA‘ENA POINT, O‘AHU – A year after the completion of the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Predator Proof Fence at Ka‘ena Point Natural Area Reserve, the 59-acre wilderness area at O‘ahu’s northwestern-most point has seen a return of native vegetation and an encouraging increase in nesting seabird populations.
“We are pleased by the success of the predator proof fence at Ka‘ena in protecting the last remaining intact coastal dune ecosystems on O‘ahu. These results are encouraging other similar projects throughout Hawai‘i, and may serve as a model for others in the country,” said William J. Aila, Jr., DLNR Chairperson.
The Ka‘ena fence is the first in the United States to use this type of fine mesh predator-proof fencing technology, which prevents dogs, cats, rats, mongoose, and even mice from attacking ground-nesting seabird populations, and eating native vegetation. The fence was funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with additional funds from the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority for outreach and signage.
“This project shows success of government agencies working together to protect our natural resources. Partnering has strengthened DLNR’s capacity to protect and restore Ka‘ena,” said Aila.
As hoped for, nesting albatross have increased, showing the highest number of nests ever recorded. Currently there are 34 active nests, many of which are in close view of the designated walking paths. While it used to be a rare treat to catch a glimpse of one of the fluffy albatross chicks, it’s now a common, but still special, occurrence.
In 2011, the Wedge-tailed Shearwaters nesting in the reserve also experienced a record high number of chicks fledged, most likely due to elimination of predation.
Ka‘ena Point is frequently visited by tourists and locals alike because of its protected bays, scenic beaches, and abundance of wildlife that can be seen. Nesting albatross, whales, and monk seals all make the months of February through April one of the best times of year to visit reserve.
Like all natural area reserves, Ka‘ena Point was designated to preserve and protect representative samples of unique biological and geological ecosystems so future generations can enjoy, study, and experience Hawai‘i’s natural heritage. Shoreline access to the near shore waters is maintained for fishing.
Sparsely vegetated, the reserve contains three species of endangered plants, archaeological evidence of an ancient Hawaiian fishing village, fragile coral reefs, sandy beaches, and a number of isolated coves that represent unique marine habitats for the north O‘ahu coastline.
The albatross that nest at the point provide one of only three accessible albatross colonies in the world. Ka‘ena Point also boasts two more species of breeding seabirds, as well as occasional views of humpback whales, Hawaiian monk seals, pods of spinner dolphins, and threatened green sea turtles.
Ka‘ena Point is also an extraordinary resource because it is the best example in the main Hawaiian Islands of the type of ecosystem that can be found in Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The difference is that anyone on O‘ahu can drive to Ka‘ena Point to see this spectacular display of plants and animals.
People have been a part of Ka‘ena Point for generations. Many trace their ancestors to this special place. Within the reserve is leina ka ‘uhane (Spirit Leap), which is considered to be a wahi pana, a celebrated legendary place. Early Hawaiians used Ka‘ena Point for fishing and feather collecting. Today, people of various cultures visit Ka‘ena Point for fishing, hiking, bicycling, and other recreational and educational activities.
In addition to the predator-proof fence, DLNR and its Ka‘ena Point Stewardship Team, with input from local residents and regular users of the reserve are delineating authorized roads at the adjacent Ka‘ena Point State Park Reserve, Mokule‘ia section, by installing posts and signs and marking the edges of designated roadways. Keeping vehicles on a reduced number of selected roads will control vehicle use in sensitive areas and prevent further resource damage. Reducing the number of roads used in the park should also curb soil runoff into the ocean and erosion aggravated by uncontrolled vehicle use.
The designated road network provides access to the main areas favored by fishers, access to the reserve for hikers and birders, and avoids sensitive native vegetation, sand dunes and cultural sites.
Whether kama‘aina or visitor, Ka‘ena Point is a very special place to see. If you do decide to visit the point please remember to stay on marked trails, pack out trash, observe wildlife respectfully from a distance, and that NO DOGS are allowed in the reserve. Following these rules will help maintain the efforts to restore Ka‘ena Point.
For further information please contact the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Room 325, 1151 Punchbowl St. Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96813, phone (808) 587-0016.