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State briefs for March 17

Seal drowns at NOAA-funded site

HONOLULU (AP) — An endangered Hawaiian monk seal died after wandering into a net pen and becoming trapped at a fish farm that was partially funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Hawaii.

NOAA officials said Thursday the death of the 10-year-old monk seal happened at Blue Ocean Mariculture, the same fish farm that NOAA’s National Marine Fishery Service has used for research in conjunction with a plan to expand aquaculture into federal waters throughout the Pacific.

NOAA officials said during a news conference Thursday that they think the seal drowned in the net pen after the farm operators opened one panel to release a shark that got inside. The seal died March 5.

Renovations at Honolulu airport moving slowly

HONOLULU (AP) — A $2.7 billion modernization project at the Honolulu airport has been going on for years and shows no signs of wrapping up soon.

Honolulu International Airport officials said the renovations are about two-thirds complete in terms of time, though they’re only about halfway through with construction work. Officials predicted another four to five years of work.

The state Department of Transportation said the project is on time and on budget.

The slow pace of the project is not normal and not good for business, according to Hawaiian Airlines CEO Mark Dunkerley.

DOT officials said they realize Dunkerley and others are frustrated, but a lot of work has actually been completed.

DOT officials said it should be done by the end of 2020.

No contest plea made in case of albatross deaths

HONOLULU (AP) — A 19-year-old college student entered a plea Thursday in a case involving the deaths of several federally protected Laysan albatrosses at the Kaena Point Natural Reserve on Oahu.

Christian Gutierrez pleaded no contest to animal cruelty, theft and other charges. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to dismiss 14 remaining counts.

Gutierrez’s statement filed in court said while he was camping with others at Kaena Point, they entered a prohibited area and “participated in illegal activities that resulted in the death of numerous albatross birds and eggs and the theft and destruction of surveillance equipment owned by the Pacific Rim Conservation Organization.”

As part of a plea deal, Gutierrez must pay restitution to Pacific Rim Conservation Group and must write an apology letter to them.

Gutierrez’s lawyer is asking the judge to defer acceptance of the plea, which would allow his client to avoid a conviction if he stays out of trouble for a specified amount of time.


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