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State of Monument Resources

This section provides summaries of the condition and trends within four resource areas: water, habitat, living resources and maritime archaeological resources. For each, sanctuary staff and selected outside experts considered a series of questions about each resource area. The set of questions is derived from the National Marine Sanctuary System’s mission, and a system-wide monitoring framework (National Marine Sanctuary Program 2004) developed to ensure the timely flow of data and information to those responsible for managing and protecting resources in the ocean and coastal zone, and to those that use, depend on, and study the ecosystems encompassed by the sanctuaries. The questions are meant to set the limits of judgments so that responses can be confined to certain reporting categories that will later be compared among all sanctuary sites and combined. The Appendix (Rating Scheme for System-Wide Monitoring Questions) clarifies the set of questions and presents statements that were used to judge the status and assign a corresponding color code on a scale from “good” to “poor.” These statements are customized for each question. In addition, the following options are available for all questions: “N/A” the question does not apply; and “undetermined” resource status is undetermined. In addition, symbols are used to indicate trends: “ conditions appear to be improving; “▬” conditions do not appear to be changing; “ conditions appear to be declining; and “?the trend is undetermined.

This section of the report provides answers to the set of questions. Answers are supported by specific examples of data, investigations, monitoring and observations, and the basis for judgment is provided in the text and summarized in the table for each resource area. Where published or additional information exists, the reader is provided with appropriate references and Web links.

Water

Large areas of the marine environment of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are considered to be nearly pristine due to their remoteness, the fact that most of the islets and shoals remain uninhabited, and the oceanographic conditions of the central Pacific Ocean. While there have been very few studies conducted on contamination, the lack of major pollution sources and the health and productivity of the coral reef ecosystems in the area strongly suggest that the marine environment is relatively unpolluted except during oil spills and other pollution discharges during ship groundings.

Although the waters surrounding the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are minimally affected overall by anthropogenic stressors, some environmental impacts due to past human activities remain. In response to concerns by U.S. Fish and Wildlife scientists over high levels of toxic contaminants (e.g., PCBs and lead) in Northwestern Hawaiian Islands wildlife (e.g., moray eels, Hawaiian monk seals, and albatrosses), near-shore sediment sampling was conducted in 2000 (see State of Habitat  Resources). Results of this study suggest the potential for localized water contamination, as contaminants in sediments can contribute to water quality degradation.

Satellite observations indicate a significant chlorophyll front in the area, with seasonal annual migrations (northward in the summer and southward during the winter). Should oceanographic changes cause these nutrient-rich waters to cross the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, productivity in the coral reef ecosystems would be expected to increase, resulting in trophic changes in the ecosystem
(pdf iconFriedlander et al. 2005).

The following information provides an assessment by monument staff of the status and trends pertaining to water quality and its effects on the environment:

1. Are specific or multiple stressors, including changing oceanographic and atmospheric conditions, affecting water quality and how are they changing?

The remote location of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands has resulted in minimal anthropogenic impacts; therefore, the rating for this question is good/fair.  However, ocean acidification and temperature rise are of concern on a time scale of several decades. Acidification is projected over the next century to affect calcification by shallow and deep corals as well as other calcifying organisms, including plankton (Kleypas et al. 2006). Temperature rise has been documented in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and may be associated with the increasing level and frequency of coral bleaching (Jokiel and Brown 2004). Changes in the oceanographic regime, specifically the position of the subtropical convergence zone, could affect productivity and other ecosystem dynamics in the region (Herman 1979). Though climate related changes may be extreme over the period of several decades, the status and trends recorded here are based on a time frame of 5 to 10 years. While impacts from acidification may not manifest in the near term, short term consequences of temperature change are more likely to be observed, possibly in the form of continued bleaching events.

2. What is the eutrophic condition of sanctuary waters and how is it changing?

The remote location of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands has resulted in minimal anthropogenic inputs, therefore, the rating for this question is "good and not changing." However, the addition of micronutrients may occur from oxidation of discarded equipment. Climate change could also potentially affect the location of subtropical convergence and possibly result in periods of eutrophication.

3. Do sanctuary waters pose risks to human health and how are they changing?

Ciguatera has been reported in reef fishes, but humans are not typically exposed at this time because harvesting of reef fish species is not allowed (White 2007), therefore, the rating for this question is "good and not changing." It is possible that fish which is obtained through sustenance fishing (allowed on permitted vessels) or subsistence fishing (which may be permitted for traditional Native Hawaiian practices) may contain ciguatera, although fish which are likely to contain the toxin are usually avoided.

4. . What are the levels of human activities that may influence water quality and how are they changing?

Since the signing of the Executive Order in 2000 and the subsequent 2006 Presidential Proclamation establishing the monument there has been a reduction in human activities that could affect water quality. The number of flights to French Frigate Shoals and Midway Atoll (the only islands/atolls with landing strips in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands), and the number of ship cruises per year decreased over the period 2005-2007. In addition, the number of people on land per day on all islands and atolls, excluding Midway, decreased over that same time period (PMNM 2008, PMNM unpublished. data). There is currently very limited access to the monument, however, there are plans to open Midway Atoll to tourism. Although previously allowed, vessels can no longer pump untreated sewage within the monument. The rating for this question is "good and improving" based on limited levels of activity and the recent prohibitions of discharges.

Water Quality Status and Trends
table
# Status Rating Basis For Judgement Description of Findings
1. Are specific or multiple stressors, including changing oceanographic and atmospheric conditions, affecting water quality and how are they changing?
Published literature indicates temperature increases. Selected conditions may preclude full development of living resource assemblages and habitats, but are not likely to cause substantial or persistent declines.
2. What is the eutrophic condition of monument waters and how is it changing?
-
Lack of anthropogenic inputs. Conditions do not appear to have the potential to negatively affect living resources or habitat quality.
3. Do sanctuary waters pose risks to human health and how are they changing?
-
Lack of sources, causes and human exposure. Conditions do not appear to have the potential to negatively affect human health.
4. What are the levels of human activities that may influence water quality and how are they changing?
up arrow
Limited access; regulations prohibit discharges. Few or no activities occur that are likely to negatively affect water quality.

Habitat

The remoteness and limited fishing activities in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands have resulted in minimal anthropogenic impacts of local origin on habitat resources. The reefs in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are among the few large-scale, intact reef ecosystems remaining in the world and offer scientists an opportunity to study how unaltered ecosystems are structured, how they function, and how they can most effectively be preserved. However, despite the limited human activity currently occurring in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, impacts from distant marine and past terrestrial activities have occurred.

Many of the terrestrial and nearshore habitats were physically altered by the military prior to World War II by dredging the shallow marine areas to enlarge islands at Midway, Kure and French Frigate Shoals. Subsequent military and U.S. Coast Guard operations on these islands resulted in further disturbance and contamination. Since the military and U.S. Coast Guard terminated missions on the islands, much of the contamination has been remediated and habitats are being restored. However, remaining uncharacterized and unlined landfills are contaminating seabird and sea turtle nesting areas and eroding contamination into the nearshore environment. Lead paint used on most of the structures on the islands affects albatross and other seabirds nesting near the buildings.

Figure 20. A NOAA diver removes derelict fishing gear on Midway Atoll. (Photo: Elizabeth Keenan)
Figure 20. A NOAA diver removes derelict fishing gear on Midway Atoll. (Photo: Elizabeth Keenan)

Marine debris, mostly derelict fishing gear from distant trawl and gillnet fisheries around the Pacific Rim, is perhaps the greatest anthropogenic impact to the reefs of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (Figure 20). It has been estimated that at most, 900 metric tons of debris have accumulated in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands over the past several decades. Assuming accumulation rates have been relatively constant over the past four decades, long-term average accumulation rates are approximately 47 metric tons per year (Dameron et al. 2007). Since 1996, the NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center has led a highly successful multi-agency effort to remove and recycle over 550 metric tons of derelict fishing gear from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. However, until substantial efforts are made to significantly reduce the sources of debris and until debris can be effectively removed at sea, accumulation is expected to continue indefinitely (pdf iconFriedlander et al. 2005).

Past land-based human activities in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands have also imposed potential impacts on marine habitat resources in the form of numerous toxic contaminants. Midway Atoll bears the highest levels of contamination among the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and is primarily associated with previous military activities. Green Island at Kure Atoll, and Tern and East Islands at French Frigate Shoals were sites of former U.S. Coast Guard stations and associated PCB contamination.

Figure 21. DDT concentrations in monument sediments.
Figure 21. DDT concentrations in monument sediments. Click here for a larger image.
(Source: pdf iconTurgeon et al. 2002)
Numerous studies on contamination in the monument have been conducted including remediation of the Navy's base reduction and closure at Midway, U.S. Coast Guard site assessments at Kure and French Frigate Shoals, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service studies on fish, albatross, seals and turtles at Midway and French Frigate Shoals, and contamination in albatross at Midway. In 2000, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program conducted a survey of island near-shore sediments. Thirty-six sediment samples were analyzed for over 70 toxic contaminants. A few of the chemical concentrations were high; that is, above the 85th percentile of concentrations measured in the coastal U.S. by the NOAA National Status and Trends Program. The concentrations of organic compounds (aggregated into groups) PCB, DDT, Dieldrin, Chlordane and PAH were undetectable, very low or at least below the National Status and Trends Program median at all sites except three. One Midway site had DDT concentrations above the National Status and Trends Program median. Two other Midway sites had high levels of PCB DDT, and PAH, and one of these had a high concentration of arsenic and above-median concentrations of cadmium, lead and tin. A fourth site on Kure Atoll was the only site with high concentrations of copper and nickel (pdf iconTurgeon et al. 2002).

The following information provides an assessment by monument staff of the status and trends pertaining to the current state of the marine habitat:

5. What are the abundance and distribution of major habitat types and how are they changing?

The abundance and distribution of deep sea and shallow reef habitats are in good condition. However, the future of shallow habitats, which may be affected by climate change and resulting sea surface elevation, are of great concern. Much of the current beach habitats that are monk seal resting places and sea turtle nesting habitat may be greatly diminished or lost altogether with sea level rise (Baker et al. 2006). Additionally, the loss of beaches at Tern Island from the creation of seawalls is of concern. The "good/fair" status rating for this question is based on the overall marine resources of the monument, but the "declining" trend reflects the need for special attention to be applied to these shallow/interface areas and beaches.

6. What is the condition of biologically structured habitats and how is it changing?

In general, biologically-structured habitat is in near-pristine condition; however, some localized habitats appear to be degraded due to coral bleaching and derelict fishing gear on reef structures. Therefore, the condition of biologically-structured habitats is rated as "good/fair." There have been two documented bleaching events since 2002 (Kenyon et al. 2006). Shallow habitats that have been affected by marine debris are of great concern, as derelict fishing gear is likely to have severe impacts on shallow coral habitats - there is continued accumulation of derelict fishing nets at an estimated rate of 50 tons a year (Dameron et al. 2007). In addition to the threat in general, it is specifically a threat to table coral which is documented as declining, and is a limited distribution coral. Table coral is also affected by two serious diseases, Acropora white syndrome and Acropora growth anomalies (Work et al. 2008), which are contributing to the declining populations. Unpublished data suggests that the disease is spreading from Johnston Atoll. For this reason, the trend is rated as "declining."

7. What are the contaminant concentrations in sanctuary habitats and how are they changing?

The remote location of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands has resulted in minimal anthropogenic impacts, however, contamination from Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and other military operations exist at Kure, Midway and French Frigate Shoals, and there have been incidents of contaminant releases from marine debris. Therefore, the rating for this question is "good/fair and not changing." A release of the pesticide carbofuran from marine debris on the beach at Laysan caused the deaths of many animals, including several of the endangered Laysan finches (David et al. 2001). There has been an impact at Tern Island due to contaminants. Eels, crabs and other biota have been shown to have high concentrations of metals and PCBs (Miao et al. 2001). Many albatross chicks on Midway are poisoned from ingesting paint chips which contaminate the ground near buildings that were painted with lead based paint (Sileo et al. 1990). The majority of the monument is in good condition, although a few terrestrial areas and superlittoral regions have experienced varying degrees of anthropogenic impact.

8. What are the levels of human activities that may influence habitat quality and how are they changing?

Overall levels of human activities are very low, although marine debris, climate change and remaining contamination from military and U.S. Coast Guard LORAN stations are major caveats. Therefore, because there is limited access to the site the rating for this question is "good/fair and not changing." Both marine debris and climate change are problems emanating from factors outside the monument but the effects are being felt within. Other activities include research and some bottom fishing which may affect bottom habitat through anchoring, coring or instrumentation. Permitted activities such as research comprise the majority of human activities and can be controlled. Illegal activities exist, such as unpermitted entry and access and violations by permitted bottom fishers. Such activities are difficult to quantify, but surveillance is increasing.

Habitat Status and Trends
table
# Status Rating Basis For Judgement Description of Findings
5. What are the abundance and distribution of major habitat types and how are they changing?
down arrow
Marine debris is degrading beaches. Potential loss of habitat from climate change and sea-level rise. Selected habitat loss or alteration has taken place, precluding full development of living resource assemblages, but it is unlikely to cause substantial or persistent degradation in living resources or water quality.
6. What is the condition of biologically-structured habitats and how is it changing?
down arrow
Marine debris, coral disease and perhaps bleaching frequency. Selected habitat loss or alteration has taken place, precluding full development of living resources, but it is unlikely to cause substantial or persistent degradation in living resources or water quality.
7. What are the contaminant concentrations in monument habitats and how are they changing?
-
Localized contamination is adversely affecting associated habitat and wildlife. Selected contaminants may preclude full development of living resource assemblages, but are not likely to cause substantial or persistent degradation.
8. What are the levels of human activities that may influence habitat quality and how are they changing?
-
Limited visitation. Some potentially harmful activities exist, but they do not appear to have had a negative effect on habitat quality.

Living Resrouces

Coral reefs in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are among the few remaining large-scale, intact, predator-dominated reef ecosystems left in the world. Areas with the highest apex predator biomass include Pearl and Hermes Atoll, followed by Lisianski and Laysan Islands. Apex predator biomass of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is about 55 percent of the total fish biomass, whereas this trophic level accounts for less than three percent of the fish biomass in the main Hawaiian Islands (Figure 22). Apex predator biomass on fore-reef habitats in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is 1.3 metric tons per hectare compared to less than 0.05 metric tons per hectare in the main Hawaiian Islands. Overall, reef fish standing stock in the monument is more than 260 percent greater than the main Hawaiian Islands across similar habitats (pdf iconFriedlander et al. 2005).

Figure 22. Comparison of the biomass in major trophic guilds between the main Hawaiian Islands and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. (Source: Friedlander and DeMartini 2002)
Figure 22. Comparison of the biomass in major trophic guilds between the main Hawaiian Islands and the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. (Source: Friedlander and DeMartini 2002)

Coral reef ecosystems consist of much more than the reef-building corals for which they are named. Coral reefs also include sand and unconsolidated sediments, colonized hard-bottom, non-reef-building corals, crustose coralline algae and macroalgae. Corals are the keystone organisms of this ecosystem, comprising approximately 50 percent of the biomass and providing habitat structure, refuge and food to a diverse group of microscopic organisms and crustaceans, mollusks, fish and other species of the tropical reef environment (Garrison 1999).

Endangered Species
The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands host more than 7,000 species including marine mammals, fishes, sea turtles, birds, invertebrates and marine algae. Twenty-three species of plants and animals known to occur in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are listed under the Endangered Species Act. Of particular concern are the Hawaiian monk seal and green sea turtle. Recently the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands have been identified as providing extensive wintering habitat for humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae (Johnston et al. 2007).

Figure 23. Mean beach counts of Hawaiian monk seals at the six main Northwestern Hawaiian Islands subpopulations, 1985-2003. (Source: Antonelis et al. 2004)
Figure 23. Mean beach counts of Hawaiian monk seals at the six main Northwestern Hawaiian Islands subpopulations, 1985-2003. (Source: Antonelis et al. 2004)
Hawaiian Monk Seals - Hawaiian monk seals are distributed throughout Hawaii predominantly in six Northwestern Hawaiian Islands subpopulations at French Frigate Shoals, Laysan and Lisianski Islands, Pearl and Hermes Reef, and Midway and Kure Atoll. The current population size of the Hawaiian monk seal is estimated between 1,200 and 1,300 individuals and depends almost entirely on the islands of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands for breeding and the surrounding reefs for sustenance. Reproductive success has declined, with a total of mean non-pup beach counts at the main reproductive Northwestern Hawaiian Islands subpopulations in 2003 approximately 60 percent lower than in 1958 (Figure 23).

Trends in abundance vary considerably among the six main subpopulations. For example, the decline since the mid-1980s was largely due to a severe decline at French Frigate Shoals, where non-pup beach counts decreased by 70 percent from 1989-2003. Populations at Laysan and Lisianski Islands have remained relatively stable since approximately 1990, though the former has tended to increase slightly while the latter has decreased slowly.

Until recently, populations at Kure, Midway, and Pearl and Hermes reef exhibited substantial growth. The subpopulation at Kure Atoll grew at an average rate of five percent per year from 1983 to 2000, due largely to decreased human disturbance and introduced females. Since 2000, counts at Kure have declined coinciding with very low survival of the 2000-2002 cohorts from weaning to age 1 year (15 percent to 22 percent). The subpopulation at Pearl and Hermes Reef increased after the mid-1970s, however, growth of this subpopulation has slowed recently and early survival has declined. Recovery of the small subpopulation at Midway Atoll appears to have slowed or stopped, also accompanied by relatively poor juvenile survival. These declines may be related to reduced food sources or increasing competition for prey items with apex predators, fewer pupping sites and increased predation of pups by sharks. Implementation of the National Marine Fisheries Service 2006 Recovery Plan for the Hawaiian Monk Seal will hopefully result in an upward trend in seals before the population of reproductive female seals decline to precipitous levels (pdf iconNMFS 2005, pdf iconNMFS 2006).

Figure 24. 	Nester abundance shown as the number of female green sea turtles nesting each year at East Island (French Frigate Shoals)  from 1973 to 2002. (Source: Balazs and Chaloupka 2003.)
Figure 24. Nester abundance shown as the number of female green sea turtles nesting each year at East Island (French Frigate Shoals) from 1973 to 2002. (Source: Balazs and Chaloupka 2003.)
Green Sea Turtles - The green sea turtle was listed as threatened in 1978. Although the population has increased significantly since the 1970s, the total number of nesting females is still well below the historical levels of the late 1800s (Figure 24). However, the Hawaiian green sea turtle stock is clearly recovering after more than 25 years of protecting their nesting and foraging habitats in the Hawaiian Archipelago (Balazs and Chaloupka 2003). Over 90 percent of all sub-adult and adult green turtles found throughout Hawaii come from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The primary nesting site for green turtles is French Frigate Shoals, which accounts for 400 nesting sites or 90 percent of all nesting within the Hawaiian Archipelago. Nesting also occurs at Pearl and Hermes Atoll and Lisianski Island. However, massive beach and island erosion witnessed at the principal nesting island in 2006 (Eastern Island, French Frigate Shoals) may reduce the number of suitable nesting sites for turtles or reduce the survivorship of hatchlings (pdf iconNMSP 2005).

Figure 25. The Christmas Shearwater can grow to have a wingspan of up to nearly 32 inches.  Adults return to colonies in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in March and depart  in early fall.  (Photo: Bishop Museum)
Figure 25. The Christmas Shearwater can grow to have a wingspan of up to nearly 32 inches. Adults return to colonies in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in March and depart in early fall. (Photo: Bishop Museum)
Nesting Seabirds - The importance of seabirds in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands was recognized in 1909 with the establishment of the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Early protection and active management in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands resulted in large and diverse seabird populations. The conservation status of Hawaiian seabirds was more recently assessed as part of the North American Waterbird Conservation Plan (Kushlan et al. 2002). Eight of the 22 species that breed in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands were classified as highly imperiled or of high conservation concern at the broad scale of the plan (eastern North Pacific, western North Atlantic and Caribbean). At the regional scale (Pacific Islands) five of the breeding species were included in these highest concern categories: Laysan and Black-footed Albatrosses, Christmas Shearwater (Figure 25), Tristram's Storm-petrel and Blue Noddy.

The greatest threats to seabirds in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands have been introduced mammals (e.g., rabbits, rats and mice) and other invasive species, fishery interactions, contaminants, oil pollution, marine debris and climate change. Over the past 20 years, active management in the National Wildlife Refuges and State Seabird Sanctuary has included eradication of black rats at Midway Atoll and Polynesian rats at Kure Atoll; eradication or control of invasive plants; cleanup of contaminants and hazards at former military sites; and coordination with NOAA Fisheries, Regional Fishery Management Councils, industry and conservation organizations to reduce fishing impacts.

Introduced Species
Figure 26. Bluestripe snappers (Lutjanus kasmira, or  ta ape ) were introduced to the main Hawaiian Islands in the late 1950s for commercial fishing and have since spread to Midway at the opposite end of the Hawaiian archipelago. (Photo: James Watt)
Figure 26. Bluestripe snappers (Lutjanus kasmira, or "ta'ape") were introduced to the main Hawaiian Islands in the late 1950s for commercial fishing and have since spread to Midway at the opposite end of the Hawaiian archipelago. (Photo: James Watt)
Eleven species of shallow-water snapper and grouper were purposefully introduced to the main islands of the Hawaiian Archipelago in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Two snappers, the bluestripe snapper (Figure 26) and the blacktail snapper, and one grouper, the peacock grouper, are well-established and have documented patterns of colonization along the island chain (Randall 1987). Bluestripe snappers have been by far the most successful fish introduction to the Hawaiian coral reef ecosystem. From some 3,200 individuals introduced on the island of Oahu in the 1950s, the population has expanded its range by 1,491 miles and has been reported as far north as Midway in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. These records suggest a dispersal rate of about 20 to 80 miles per year. The other two species have only been recorded as far north as French Frigate Shoals and are present in much lower numbers than bluestripe snappers (pdf iconFriedlander et al. 2005).

The following information provides an assessment by monument staff of the status and trends pertaining to the current state of the monument's living resources:

9. What is the status of biodiversity and how is it changing?

The research community is still in an exploratory phase with its understanding of biodiversity. Therefore, the rating of "good and not changing" for this question is based on limited existing information. There are known terrestrial extinctions; however, this document is limited to the marine environment and therefore these extinctions are not considered in the assessment.

Ongoing characterization and exploration is yielding new information on biodiversity at a rapid rate. A recent Census of Marine Life Cruise to French Frigate Shoals uncovered 30 to 50 invertebrate species new to science, 58 new ascidian records, 33 new records of decapod crustaceans, and 27 new opistobranch mollusks of record (R. Brainard, NOAA NMFS, pers. comm.). Hawaii Undersea Research Lab (HURL) submersible cruises in 2007 discovered several new genera of octocorals, as well as sponges that are likely new to science (C. Kelley, HURL, pers. comm.). Even in the relatively well-explored shallow coral reef areas, ongoing characterizations of crustose coralline algal communities are finding species or morphologies that are distinct from those of the Main Hawaiian Islands (I. Abbott, University of Hawai'i, pers. comm.).

10. What is the status of environmentally sustainable fishing and how is it changing?

The only substantial fishery in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is for bottomfish. Population analysis by NOAA Fisheries indicates these fisheries are operating at fishing levels below that required to harvest Maximum Sustainable Yield (WPRFMC 1986). Spawning potential ratio indicates that presently the overall the status of the fishery is good. Therefore, this question is rated "good." The trend for this question is rated as "improving" because regulations will phase out bottomfishing in five years from the date of proclamation (due to be enforced in 2011).

11. What is the status of non-indigenous species and how is it changing?

The status rating for this question is "good/fair" because few non-indigenous species have been documented. However, there is uncertainty of potential impacts from these species; therefore, the trend is "undetermined." Eleven species are documented, but not all are established. Only two invasive species are found throughout the monument (Godwin et al. 2005); the blueline snapper (ta ape) and the hydroid Pennaria. Distribution of the latter is limited within the monument; the majority of established individuals are in Midway harbor. The primary source of invasive species is the main islands, and management processes are in place. Marine debris is a potential vector but is not within management control.

12. What is the status of key species and how is it changing?

Key species in the monument include those functioning as apex predators, such as sharks and jacks, habitat forming corals, and protected species such as turtles, monk seals and seabirds. Status of these groups of species varies considerably. Apex predators are in near pristine condition in the monument (Friedlander and DeMartini 2002), and coral (pdf iconFriedlander et al. 2005) and turtle (Balazs and Chaloupka 2003) populations appear to be holding steady. Monk seals, on the other hand, have suffered a 60 percent population decline since the 1950s (Antonelis 2004) and are currently at critically low levels. The reasons for the earlier declines are generally agreed on as being the result of prior human disturbance of habitats (during island occupation and exploitation expeditions; Kenyon 1972) and hunting (Clapp and Woodward 1972).

Continued declines of monk seals after the 1950s are debated and most likely related to a combination of factors, including shark predation (Bertilsson-Friedman 2002), which affects both adult and juvenile survival (Craig and Ragan 1999), disrupted sex ratios that have enhanced levels of male aggression, food limitation (Gilmartin 1993, Craig and Ragen 1999) caused by decadal shifts in patterns of productivity (Polovina et al 1994) that affect fish abundances, inbreeding within the small remaining population, marine debris entanglement (Henderson 2001), and episodic events like ciguatera poisoning (Gilmartin et al 1980). The potential for monk seal recovery is uncertain, as some factors would indicate enormous challenges (e.g., the paucity of reproductively active females) while others suggest cause for optimism (the increasing number in the Main Hawaiian Islands; NMFS 2007).

The overall rating of "fair" for this question was considered to be reasonable, given the decline of the monk seal populations in the sanctuary and the relatively high and stable populations of corals and predatory fish at the site. The "undetermined" trend is based on the uncertainty regarding monk seal recovery.

13. What is the condition or health of key species and how is it changing?

Surveys in some locations indicate that many yearling, juvenile, and adult female monk seals are in poor health. Emaciated animals and females with low reproductive performance may be associated with food limitation (Gilmartin 1993). Animals have also been found with severe injuries that compromise their condition. At French Frigate Shoals, this led investigators to suggest that shark predation increased after 1987 (Bertilsson-Friedman 2002). The health of a few species of seabirds has also declined, caused by the ingestion of lead based paint and plastics and possibly the bioaccumulation of marine toxins. On the other hand, with the exception of occasional encounters of diseased individuals, predatory and reef fishes, marine invertebrates, and most corals appear stable and in good condition. The rating of "fair" for this question primarily considers the compromised condition of monk seal and seabirds. The undetermined  trend is based on the uncertainty regarding monk seal condition and health.

14. What are the levels of human activities that may influence living resource quality and how are they changing?

Overall levels of human activities are very low, although marine debris and climate change are major factors that threaten Northwestern Hawaiian Islands habitats and ultimately the health of key species (pdf iconBaker et al. 2006). Therefore, the rating for this question is "good/fair and not changing." Both marine debris and climate change are affected by human activities occurring far outside the monument but the effects are being felt within. Other activities include research and some bottom fishers. Permitted activities such as research comprise the majority of human activities and can be controlled, and fishing will be phased out by 2011. Illegal activities exist and are difficult to quantify, but surveillance is increasing.

Living Resources Status and Trends
table
# Status Rating Basis For Judgement Description of Findings
9. What is the status of biodiversity and how is it changing?
-
Assessment/monitoring activities to date. Biodiversity appears to reflect pristine or near-pristine conditions and promotes ecosystem integrity (full community development and function).
10. What is the status of environmentally sustainable fishing and how is it changing?
up arrow
Limited activity; existing fishery to be phased out by June 2011. Extraction does not appear to affect ecosystem integrity (full community development and function).
11. What is the status of non-indigenous species and how is it changing?
?
Few species with isolated distributions; uncertainty of potential impact. Non-indigenous species exist, precluding full community development and function, but are unlikely to cause substantial or persistent degradation of ecosystem integrity.
12. What is the status of key species and how is it changing?
?
Monk seal decline; corals and predatory fish populations high and stable. The reduced abundance of selected keystone species may inhibit full community development and function and may cause measurable but not severe degradation of ecosystem integrity; or selected key species are at reduced levels, but recovery is possible.
13. What is the condition or health of key species and how is it changing?
?
Monk seal starvation and body condition; debris ingestion by seabirds; predatory fish and most corals in good condition and stable. The diminished condition of selected key resources may cause a measurable but not severe reduction in ecological function, but recovery is possible.
14. What are the levels of human activities that may influence living resource quality and how are they changing?
-
Limited visitation. Some potentially harmful activities exist, but they do not appear to have had a negative effect on living resource quality.

Maritime Archaeological Resources

Due to the strategic location of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands for commerce and military activities, the area features significant maritime heritage resources. Beginning in 2002, archaeologists with NOAA's Maritime Heritage Program have been conducting the systematic survey of important wreck sites in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and sharing their findings with the public through a comprehensive education and outreach program. Of the current 127 potential resource sites, 20 preliminary site assessments have been conducted, and nine site inventory surveys have been completed. Resources include British and American 19th-century whaling shipwrecks, the U.S. Navy side wheel steamer USS Saginaw, the World War II submarine rescue vessel USS Macaw, and the American bark Carrollton. Maritime archaeological survey in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands emphasizes a non-invasive approach, in situ management being the preferred alternative. This approach is most compatible with the goal of minimizing or eliminating negative impacts on the ecosystem. The comprehensive survey to locate and assess all existing maritime heritage sites, as directed by the National Historic Preservation Act, has not been completed.

The following information provides an assessment by maritime heritage staff from the Pacific Islands regional office of the status and trends pertaining to the current state of the monument's maritime archaeological resources. It is important to remember that, while the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands possess unique examples of heritage resources, the systematic survey of these sites has only recently begun. These surveys are currently conducted by a small team of maritime archaeologists, accompanying biologists and oceanographers on "piggy-back" missions of opportunity. Site archaeological inventory is time-intensive, and completion of a survey often requires work over multiple field seasons. This means that estimates of resource status at this point are often based on partial data.

15. What is the integrity of known maritime archaeological resources and how is it changing?

Resource integrity is carefully defined by the National Register for Historic Places as a crucial measure for heritage sites. Measures of integrity include location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association. Integrity does not simply mean the "intactness" of a shipwreck or structure, for the same types of measures apply to scattered sites and artifacts as well, provided the site retains historical, scientific or educational information. The integrity of known maritime archaeological resources in the monument is rated "fair" because deterioration has resulted from natural biological, chemical, and physical processes. Shallow water heritage resources in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands have often been broken apart by the high-energy environment but retain a measure of integrity as pristine archaeological sites. The "declining" trend is due to the slow and inevitable processes of deterioration over time.

16. Do known maritime archaeological resources pose an environmental hazard and how is this threat changing?

From the handful of archaeological resources which have been surveyed to date, there are no known hazardous cargoes on archaeological sites currently threatening the environment. Therefore, the rating for this question is "good and not changing." Historical and archaeological sites are considered to be at least 50 years in age, lowering the immediate threat of damage from mechanical break-up. Nineteenth -century shipwreck sites exhibit even less potential impact, coming closer to a state of equilibrium with their immediate environment. World War II-era vessels that may have hazardous cargoes or materials have been lost in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, but these have not yet been surveyed or located. Modern wrecks that are not archaeological resources may pose a threat from deterioration, and surveys of these impact sites should be conducted in the future.

17. What are the levels of human activities that may influence maritime archaeological resource quality and how are they changing?

While there do exist anecdotal reports of maritime archaeological resources having been removed illegally from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in the past, these instances have not been fully documented or confirmed. In general, the remoteness of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands protects its archaeological sites compared with other, more accessible locations. Therefore, the rating for this question is "good and improving." Management efforts currently include education and outreach focusing on the nature of archaeological resources and heritage preservation, and this is one of the best long-term strategies for minimizing potential human impacts. Damage and/or removal of archaeological resources remain a concern, and planned future activities (such as tourism at specific locations) indicate the necessity of outreach, monitoring and enforcement. Archaeological resources are also subject to inadvertent damage in a similar manner to the natural ecosystem from anchors, marine debris, groundings, etc.

Maritime Archaeological Resources Status and Trends
table
# Status Rating Basis For Judgement Description of Findings
15. What is the integrity of known maritime archaeological resources and how is it changing?
down arrow
Natural deterioration (physical, biological and chemical). The diminished condition of selected archaeological resources has reduced, to some extent, their historical, scientific or educational value and may affect the eligibility of some sites for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
16. Do known maritime archaeological resources pose an environmental hazard and how is this threat changing?
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No known resources with hazardous cargos. Known maritime archaeological resources pose few or no environmental threats.
17. What are the levels of human activities that may influence maritime archaeological resource quality and how are they changing?
up arrow
Few instances of resource removal or damage. Few or no activities occur that are likely to negatively affect maritime archaeological resource integrity.

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