USFWS Pacific > Collections > National Wildlife Refuge System

A tsunami generated by a powerful earthquake off the coast of Japan struck the northwest Hawaiian islands starting at 11:36 PM on Thursday, March 10th and continued for the next few hours.

Staff at all islands and atolls were safe. They were immediately alerted and took emergency safety precautions.

On March 15, FWS released an official annoncement on the effects of the tsunami to Midway Atoll's wildlife. Surveys of the three islands reveal that more than 110,000 albatross chicks – about 22 percent of this year’s albatross production – were lost as a result of the tsunami and two severe winter storms that hit in January and February. At least 2,000 adults also died.

Information from other islands is limited, as only two were occupied by people at the time of the tsunami: Laysan and Tern Islands. Tern Island, located within French Frigate Shoals, experienced very little impact from the tsunami and recorded no damage or wildlife impacts. However, Laysan, where the Service maintains a year-round operation, had significant wave action that nearly reached the camp and overwashed many parts of the island. Wildlife losses here cannot be estimated with the same degree of accuracy, but at a minimum many more thousands of albatross chicks were lost.

All photo credits: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service