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Biologist finds TV show not to blame for distressed ‘a‘o

A pair of threatened birds appeared not to be directly affected by the production of a reality TV show in Ninole last week.

CBS’ reality dating show “Love Island” has generated controversy since shooting began at the Waterfalling Estate in July. The bright lights and loud noises of the shoot disrupted the quiet neighborhood and some feared would negatively impact local wildlife.

Earlier this month, biologists from the Department of Land and Natural Resources found an ‘a‘o — a threatened species of puffin also called a Newell’s shearwater — in Umaumau that had been grounded and was unable to return to flight.

Although that bird was found three miles away from the “Love Island” shoot — and was released back into the wild in good health later that week — biologists decided to observe the “Love Island” production at night to determine if it was affecting seabirds.

Paul Beighley, who lives next door to Waterfalling Estate, the show’s primary shooting location, previously said he observed several seabirds circling the set, evidently disoriented by the production’s lights.

However, last Tuesday night, a biologist from the DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife observed two ‘a‘o apparently unaffected by the lights of the production, DLNR East Hawaii Wildlife Biologist Ian Cole said Thursday.

“Our researcher saw two ‘a‘o — which he was able to identify by their cries — passing through the lights of the set,” Cole said, adding that the birds did not appear to be disoriented by the bright lights.

Cole said DLNR staff would continue to monitor the production for the remainder of the shoot, which ended Saturday.

Hawaii’s artificial coastal lighting law, a state law enforced by the counties, requires that outdoor lighting fixtures not directly illuminate the shoreline or water. Hawaii Film Commissioner Donne Dawson said ITV Entertainment was instructed to keep its lights at an appropriate angle in order to comply with the law.

“This is a very serious concern for us,” Dawson said. “At one point or another, all film productions are going to try to do night shooting, and so we have to make sure everyone is aware of how this works.”

Dawson said ITV was made aware of the environmental concerns since the beginning of the permitting process. At her request, Dawson said, ITV minimized the night lighting during the ‘a‘o’s most active period.

Hamakua Councilwoman Heather Kimball said her office has received complaints and concerns about the show, and had requested a meeting with ITV to at least get them to sign the Pono Pledge — a public information campaign launched in 2018 intended to foment a more environmentally contentious attitude among visitors — but no such meeting ever occurred.

“This is something I haven’t really dealt with before, and we’ve just got to understand how these things work for the next time,” Kimball said. “Who is responsible for these things, and how should we verify these things in advance?”

The final episode of “Love Island” aired Sunday.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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