News Release

December 13, 2012

Intense Storm Hits Tern Island

Media Contacts:
Ann Bell, (808) 792-9484

Damage is Extensive to Biological Field Station

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biological field station located 500 miles northwest of Honolulu within the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, part of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (Monument), experienced an intense low pressure storm that severely damaged facilities early Sunday morning.  The Fish and Wildlife Service living quarters and boathouse are extensively damaged, seabirds nesting on island have been injured, the communication system is down and solar panel function is greatly minimized. 

“Fortunately, the island occupants–an employee and four volunteers–are safe and not injured, and backup communications, water and food supply, and fuel for generators is adequate to temporarily sustain the staff,” noted Ann Bell, Acting Fish and Wildlife Service Superintendent of the Monument.

Located on Tern Island within French Frigate Shoals, this station provides critical shelter for biologists and scientists to conduct research, student-based education, and to monitor hundreds of albatross, wedge-tailed shearwaters, and bonin petrels — including a small population of Tristram’s storm petrels.  In addition, the atoll’s marine and island ecosystem provides life support for most of Hawaii's green sea turtle nesting population, the endangered Hawaiian monk seal and extraordinary native marine life.

Arrangements are being made to for a transport ship to reach Tern Island by Tuesday of next week.   Damage assessment and more information will be become available as internet communication is restored.  For general information about Tern Island, go to

Papahanaumokuakea is cooperatively managed to ensure ecological integrity and achieve strong, long-term protection and perpetuation of Northwestern Hawaiian Island ecosystems, Native Hawaiian culture, and heritage resources for current and future generations.  Three co-trustees - the Department of Commerce, Department of the Interior, and State of Hawai‘i - joined by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, protect this special place. Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument was inscribed as the first mixed (natural and cultural) UNESCO World Heritage Site in the United States in July 2010.  For more information, please visit