Fossil evidence indicates that diverse and abundant seabird communities were once found in the main Hawaiian Islands. However, these seabird populations have severely decreased, or even disappeared, as a result of human disturbance, habitat loss and predation from introduced mammals. Today, the vast majority of Hawai'i's seabirds nest on low-lying and uninhabited atolls in the Northwestern Hawaiian islands, some of which will not be able to withstand projected sea-level rises. As a result, populations of many seabird species will be further reduced unless suitable nesting habitat in the main Hawaiian Islands can be restored against predators.
The history of seabird management in the Hawaiian Islands is examined, tracing three overlapping stages. The first emphasized exploitation, the second recognized the damage done by humans and developed methods to remove the causes. The third and current stage focuses on restoration, initially of seabirds, and most recently of ecosystems. Restoration will require a scientific approach and documentation of successes and failures, improving the chances of success for future interventions.