Lehua Island Restoration Project

Lehua Island Restoration Project

An image of Lehua Island with a rainbow and an albatross, with text reading "Lehua Island Ecosystem Restoration Project"

Photo credit: Mele Khalsa, Island Conservation


image of Lehua

Lehua Island is a 284-acre island located three-fourths of a mile off the northern shore of Ni’ihau (a privately owned 46,080-acre island). Lehua is a state-designated seabird sanctuary managed by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and federally owned by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). Lehua is one of Hawaii’s most important seabird colonies because of its size and height above sea level.  It also offers a unique opportunity for restoring an island ecosystem.

In April 2021, the Lehua Island Restoration Project announced that Lehua Island is now rat-free. The announcement comes after decades of work by a wide range of partners to remove invasive rabbits and rats from the island in order to protect native bird habitat. The project now moves into its next phase, focusing on biosecurity (making sure rats are not accidentally reintroduced to the island), vegetation restoration of native plants, and attracting more native birds to nest on the island. Monitoring of the island is ongoing, tracking trends for the many species of seabirds who nest here (see below). Part of this new phase is also conducting surveys that tell us more about how the ecosystem as as whole is functioning – including annual marine surveys, insect surveys, limu (seaweed) surveys, and reptile surveys. The DLNR is working closely with native Hawaiian cultural groups to restore and preserve ancient sites and cultural connections to the island and the ecosystem.  

To learn more about Lehua’s history check out the link below for DLNR’s Lehua Island: Past & Future StoryMap. The StoryMap includes a timeline of Lehua’s history, starting from prior to human contact and ending with the current outlook for Lehua’s rat-free future. The StoryMap also includes a slideshow allowing people to meet the birds that call the island home. Also see link below for DLNRʻs video on Lehua in Winter, showing the island during the wet season with flourishing vegetation and nesting albatross.

For users who are interested in the details of the Lehua Island rat eradication, please use this link to access archived materials of these efforts.  



Permits & Rules

  • This sanctuary is RESTRICTED, per administrative rules Chapter 126 (Wildlife Sanctuaries). Access is restricted to areas below the high water mark.
  • Commercial activities are prohibited.
  • Other activities (like scientific research, conservation management, or subsistence, traditional, and customary practices by Native Hawaiians consistent with the long-term preservation of the wildlife sanctuary resources) may be possible with a permit. Individuals interested in permits should review the detailed information on our Permits & Guidelines page and contact their local DOFAW office.

Explore from Home

A screenshot of the Lehua Island Past and Future StoryMap

A screenshot from the “Lehua Island: Past & Future” StoryMap, which provides a timeline of Lehua’s history as well as a slideshow of images of birds on the island.

Select Native Plants & Animals

image of laysan albatross flying


(Laysan Albatross)

image of a black footed-albatross


(Black-footed albatross)

image of bird flying

Koa‘e ‘ula

(Red-tailed Tropicbird)

image of bird flying


(Bulwer’s Petrel)

image of bird

ʻUaʻu kani

(Wedge-tailed shearwater)

image of bird


(Black Noddy)

image of brown footed booby


(Brown Booby)


photo of red footed booby


(Red-Footed Booby)


image of ma'o


(Gossypium tomentosum)

image of pa'u-a-hi'iaka


(Jacquemontia sandwicensis)

image of ilie'e


(Plumbago zeylanica)

image of naio


(Myoporum sandwicense)


(Doryopteris decipiens)

cover image of 'anunu


(Sicyos alba)

image of ilima


(Sida fallax)

image of uhaloa‘Uhaloa

(Waltheria indica)

We are working on re-introducing the following species. Please report any sightings of these species to DOFAW.

image of ewa ewa


 (Onychoprion fuscatus)

image of pakalakala


(Onychoprio lunatus)

image of blue-gray noddy

Blue-gray noddy

(Procelsterna cerulean)

image of uau


(Pterodroma sandwichensis)

image of akeake flying


(Oceanodroma castro)





Plans & Projects

We are currently implementing two grants for work on Lehua Island:

  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Seabird Conservation Program for reintroduction of endangered Hawaiian petrel. This grant also includes habitat restoration via removal of invasive weeds, planting native seeds and creating a Native Flora Guide to Lehua Island.
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Competitive State Wildlife Grant (CSWG) for reintroduction of blue-gray noddy, sooty terns, gray-backed terns and endangered band-rumped storm petrel.
  • Both grants also support ongoing monitoring of seabirds, annual drone mapping surveys, annual vegetation surveys, infrastructure maintenance , biosecurity and outreach.


  • Help keep rats and other invasive species off Lehua Island by making sure your boat is rat-free if you are near Lehua. Rats can swim to shore and reinvade this protected island.
  • If you do come ashore on Lehua to access the low tide zone, please make sure you are not accidentally transporting any ants, insects, weed seeds, non-native limu or other potentially damaging invasive species.
  • Donate to the Island Conservation Lehua Island Restoration Fund. Our partners at Island Conservation directly support ongoing restoration work. LINK
  • Educate yourself and others about Lehua Island and the important role that offshore island play in connecting the Main Hawaii islands (MHI and the NW Hawaiian islands through dispersal of seabirds and plants. See links below, or contact Kauai DOFAW for more information.

Additional Resources

Island Conservation Lehua Island

Pacific Islands Benthic Habitat Mapping Center: Northwest Hawaiian Islands

Papahānaumokuākea: Virtual Visit