Palmyra Atoll Logo

Everett from Hawaii asked: I've heard that there's a fish processing business on the island and a landing strip, is that true. What impact will this have on the bird life? Is the processing part of the Nature Conservancy's activities there?
Chuck Cook, Palmyra Director TNC: When The Nature Conservancy acquired Palmyra Atoll in November of 2000, the property was encumbered with a license of limited duration that allows a single company to use the dock and landing strip (1.5 acres of land) on the atoll to transship tuna caught far offshore. Fortunately, the sellers of the property, the Fullard-Leo family, had negotiated a license agreement that contains strict environmental provisions that ensure the protection of the emergent lands, coral reefs, and marine waters out to three miles from the 100 fathom demarcation. As we speak, the transshipment company is inactive on the atoll. Regarding the environmental impact of the license on Palmyra's seabirds, reef fish, corals, and near-shore marine environment, it is negligible.

Through the Eyes of a Seabird — Page 2

At 6 degrees North Latitude, Palmyra perches at the collision zone of the North Pacific Gyre and the South Pacific Gyre, catching heavy rainfall. Most tropical oceans are nutrient-poor, creating those clear turquoise images in travel brochures, but not around Palmyra. Surrounding waters, on the boundary of the North and the South Equatorial Current and Countercurrent, support elevated levels of phytoplankton, higher chlorophyll, more plankton, and thus more fish.


The ecosystem provides variety and protection. Shorebirds love the extensive mudflats in the lagoon. The frigatebirds, red-footed boobies, white terns, and black noddies wax eloquent about Palmyra's fast-growing Pisonia grandis trees, which appear as luxury condominiums compared to adjacent islands in the Line Chain. The trees support the second largest colony of red-footed boobies in the world, 30,000, and the largest black noddy colony of the central Pacific.

Tree-nesters burst with enthusiasm for the Pisonia grandis remnant forests leftover from a vast Indo-Pacific ecosystem. The self-assured frigates will undoubtedly boast that they play a large role in the tree's survival by dispersing the seeds and enriching the soil with nitrogen. This, in turn, or under terns, builds up a rich layer of peaty humus which harbors other plant life and insects, a smorgasbord of delicacies for smaller birds.

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