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U.S. Coral Reef Task Force meeting in Kaanapali

By Staff | Sep 11, 2014

“We encourage the public to learn more about coral reefs through this meeting and the multitude of volunteer and educational programs statewide,” said William J. Aila Jr., chairman of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

KAANAPALI – Experts from around the country are meeting here this week to discuss key national issues, propose new actions and present the latest progress in the effort to protect, restore and sustainably use coral reef ecosystems.

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is hosting attendees of the 32nd United States Coral Reef Task Force (USCRTF) meeting in Kaanapali from Sept. 8-12.

“Kaanapali, Maui, was chosen as the meeting location for its national and local significance,” DLNR Chair and USCRTF Member William J. Aila Jr. explained.

“DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources identified this region as a priority management area and, in 2009, established the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area to legally protect herbivores and promote coral reef recovery.”

In 2011, the task force designated West Maui as a priority watershed partnership, incorporating holistic resource management at the ahupua’a (watershed) level.

This designation builds on established efforts and leverages resources to reduce one of the key sources of coral reef decline: land-based pollution.

In 2012, a comprehensive effort known as the West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative was formalized and resulted in several on-the-ground efforts, including planting rain gardens, reducing erosion, limiting landscaping impacts and engaging the community in actions to improve ocean health.

According to DLNR, coral reef monitoring data shows recent improvements in the condition of West Maui’s corals and fish populations; this upturn may be an early sign that protection of herbivores and efforts to reduce pollution are leading to improved conditions for coral growth.

The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Business Meeting will be held on Thursday, Sept. 11, from 7:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. in The Westin Maui’s Haleakala Ballroom. The public comment period is slated from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

The meeting will feature a welcome speech by Gov. Neil Abercrombie, presentations and updates on workshops taking place during the USCRTF meeting.

During the conference this week, task force members will meet with the Maui Nui Makai Network and Maui Coral Reef Recovery Team to learn what Maui communities are doing to protect and restore healthy coastal and marine environments, view healthy West Maui reefs and coral impacted by environmental stressors, and visit various watershed points of interest here, including conservation lands, agricultural tracts and the urban district.

For more information, visit www.uscrtf2014.weebly.com or www.dlnr.hawaii.gov/dar.

Established in 1998 by Presidential Executive Order, the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force includes leaders from 12 federal agencies; seven U.S. states, territories and commonwealths; and three Freely Associated States to further the understanding and conservation of coral reefs.