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Snorkelers can help monitor Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area

By Staff | Feb 11, 2010

In a 25-year tradition, Master Ben Seng Au and Au’s Shaolin Arts Society will welcome the Year of the Tiger with Chinese New Year festivities on Tuesday, Feb. 16, at The Wharf Cinema Center. Kindergarten and preschool children of Lahaina will gather at The Wharf at 11:30 a.m. as firecrackers welcome the lions to the center’s entrance on Front Street across from Banyan Tree Park. Keiki will feed the lions Red Lai See envelopes filled with monetary offerings for good luck in the new year. The dance will be followed by a martial arts demonstration. The public is invited to attend, and admission is free.

LAHAINA — The public is invited to an educational workshop on Wednesday, Feb. 17, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Lahaina Civic Center to learn about the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area.

Staff from the Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) and the state Department of Land & Natural Resources’ Division of Aquatic Resources will inform community members about the purpose and use of a new online tool to assist with community-based monitoring efforts, as well as facilitate the development of collaborative projects that may be funded through CORAL’s community microgranting program.

This workshop is targeted toward all community members and organizations, dive/tour operation managers, guides, boat captains, instructors, naturalists, teachers and students, hotel personnel, government representatives and anyone with an interest in marine tourism and conservation.

In July 2009, DLNR established a new Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area (KHFMA) at North Kaanapali, where taking certain herbivorous fishes — such as surgeonfishes, parrotfishes and rudderfishes — and sea urchins is now prohibited.

At Kahekili Beach Park (Airport Beach), the reef shows signs of stress with seasonal invasive algal blooms and rapidly decreasing coral cover. 

Studies by marine scientists have found that overgrowth of coral reefs by algae is a severe and growing problem in Hawaii.

Kaneohe Bay, Waikiki, Maunalua Bay and much of West and South Maui are all areas where previously healthy reefs have become largely dominated by algae.

Herbivorous fishes are essential to tropical reefs, DLNR noted. Once established, algae prevents new coral from competing for space on reefs, converting coral-dominated habitats to algae-dominated habitats.

Establishing this herbivore management area is an immediate action DLNR is using to intervene in the rapid coral reef degradation documented in the area.

The community can kokua by supporting these rules for the health and longevity of Maui’s reefs, CORAL noted.

Through the workshop, the Kahekili Herbivore Enhancement Area (HEA) Project is looking for volunteers to help with snorkel surveys. 

Volunteers will gather data on three different aspects: what herbivorous fishes are eating and at what rate, monitoring of herbivore schools, and fish behavior observations. The protocols are simple and fun.

Wednesday’s workshop will provide an overview of survey techniques, as well as the new Coral Reef Monitoring Data Portal that will be available online for this and other community-based volunteer monitoring efforts.

CORAL Hawaii Field Manager Liz Foote said volunteers conduct weekly surveys at the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area. She added that “there are many opportunities to get involved throughout the month.”

When asked if measures are working to protect fish and reduce algae, Foote said that “it’s really too soon to make any definitive assessments of that nature; ecosystem-level changes take effect over the course of years, and due to many interrelated ecological factors, are particularly difficult to assess.”

She added, “But there will be a lot of folks in place studying the system!”

People of all ages and experience levels are invited to participate in the workshop and learn how to get more involved. This data will add to the understanding and management of Hawaii’s marine resources.

CORAL’s microgranting program presents an opportunity for organizations, businesses, educational institutions and individuals to receive funding — in the form of “microgrants” typically in the range of $500-$2,500 — for collaborative, community-based projects that seek to reduce threats to Maui’s reefs, particularly protected sites such as the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area.

Registration is required for the workshop; contact Foote at Lfoote@coral.org or 669-9062. For more information on the KHFMA, call the Division of Aquatic Resources at 243-5294 or visit http://hawaii.gov/dlnr/dar/regulated_areas_maui.html#kahekili.