Coming Wednesday: “The Shark Chasers,” a Civil Beat Special Project, follows a team of researchers to East Island and French Frigate Shoals, the summer feeding grounds for hungry tiger sharks.
Fletcher did acknowledge, however, that East Island’s destruction can also be just up to chance, as the sharp turn the storm took directly toward East Island could not be helped.
Using satellite imagery, federal scientists confirmed Monday that East Island, a critical habitat for endangered Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles, was almost entirely washed away earlier this month.
Chip Fletcher, a climate scientist at the University of Hawaii, said he was aware that East Island would likely eventually be swallowed up by rising sea levels, but predicted that it would happen sometime within the next couple of decades.
The turtles are known to travel to the main Hawaiian Islands after breeding and nesting on East Island.
Fletcher was doing research in July on East Island, which is part of French Frigate Shoals in Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.
About 96 percent of Hawaiian green sea turtles, a threatened population under the Endangered Species Act, nest in French Frigate Shoals, over half of which on East Island.
East Island was one of the northwestern Hawaiian islands and even had a U.S. Coast Guard radar station until 1952.