Fish with a tumor, diseased urchin, and dead lanternfish on a beach

Marine life disease and mortality events in Hawai`i

Urchins healthy VS disease

Photo credit: TNC

Three factors drive wildlife populations: Recruitment, immigration/emigration, and mortality.  Because of its isolation, Hawai`i has evolved a unique flora and fauna that has lost a lot of its innate defenses against more aggressive organisms imported from overseas. As a result, invasive animals and plants are major factors responsible for displacing or eliminating native species. Microbes such as viruses and bacteria are also invasive, and viral and parasitic diseases are suspected of driving certain species of native birds to extinction.

What is DLNR doing?

The USGS National Wildlife Health Center is the only federal institution dedicated to understanding the role of wildlife health in conservation and public health. The Honolulu Field Station is staffed by a wildlife disease specialist and three biological technicians.  DLNR partners with the Center, which provides technical assistance and applied research to find causes of wildlife mortality and illness. We work closely together to identify wildlife health issues that impact populations and strive to find solutions that assist in conservation and management of Hawai`i’s marine life.

fish with a tumor

Milletseed Butterflyfish (lauwiliwili or Chaetodon miliaris) with a cancerous tumor, photo credit: J. Whittmer

For more information please visit the National Wildlife Health Center website:

What can we do?

Compared to other threats, little is relatively known about wildlife diseases and mortality events. However, early detection, reporting, and documentation of any unusual disease or mortality is critical to obtaining useful data about the event.  Online report forms for the EOR Network can be found at If you do observe unusual disease or mortality, please DO NOT collect samples. Samples are to be collected by DLNR staff only or their designees. Photos are very helpful, please send photos to: rr[email protected]. [/tab] [/tabcontent] [/tabs]