Eco-stewards use Community Managed Makai Areas to heal ocean resources
WEST MAUI – The results of a peer-reviewed study released in 2011 determined that the economic value the American people hold for Hawaii’s coral reefs is $33.57 billion.
Placing a dollar figure on the worth of our delicate island coral reef ecosystem seems ludicrous – if not sensational – but it positions the topic upfront in perspective to our pocketbooks, where we can all relate.
Of course, there is much, much more to this treasured resource than the bottom line – like stunning multi-colored views as we drive to the other side; income through subsistence, recreational and commercial fishing; and world-class surfing and diving locations.
Luckily, Maui has the second largest reef area (in square kilometers) of the main islands; and, according to the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council (MNMRC), “Safe-guarding coral reef health and the economic and environmental benefits that they provide to residents and visitors requires maintaining a healthy balance between land-sea connections.”
Unfortunately, the island’s surrounding skeletal bionetwork is at risk. Over the years, scientific monitoring reveals alarming trends and statistics. Comparatively and disturbingly, the 1993 data estimated live coral cover between 50 to 75 percent. In 2009, in contrast, state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ data indicated that the amount of coverage had lessened to between 20 and 30 percent.
The state Department of Health in a 2012 analysis reported, “Maui Island also now has more impaired waters than any other island in the state,” MNMRC released in a statement to Lahaina News.
“Maui is home to some of Hawaii’s most heavily impacted coral reefs due to a high rate of land conversion and development, shoreline change and engineering, coastal construction and commercial development that are impacting water quality and reef fish decline,” the MNMRC statement added.
Thankfully, there are eco-warriors and super-stewards amongst us, undaunted and vigilant, battling against all odds to heal and restore balance, led by the MNMRC, an amazing gathering of stakeholders, scientists, advisors, local leaders and cultural specialists.
Meet the 22-member team at mnmrc.org.
The late community visionary Uncle Ed Lindsey, in concert with marine biologist Robin Newbold, formed the community-based, action-oriented group in 2007, “working to bring human actions into balance with ecological principles, through education, collaboration and advocacy, so that the health of our near shore waters will be restored with an abundance of life for future generations,” Newbold said.
“Uncle Ed, who had grown up at the Lindsey’s family home in the Polanui area of Lahaina (close to 505 Front Street), hoped to engage the community in efforts to improve coral reefs in Lahaina, which had provided food to his and many other families for generations,” Newbold said.
Although Uncle Ed has passed on, his vision lives today with MNMRC and its spawns, including the formation of the Maui Coral Reef Recovery Team, the publication of a Maui Coral Reef Recovery Plan and the subsequently established Community Managed Makai Areas (CMMA).
John Parks has helped to keep the dream alive with his expertise and extensive experience. For more than 20 years, he worked with local communities, indigenous leaders, resource users, government agencies and non- governmental organizations to employ marine resource management solutions that strengthen the environmental and civil security in coastal communities around the world.
“In 2009, I was invited by the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council to help them think about how they might take local action to manage marine resources in communities around Maui,” he advised.
“John Parks, then with The Nature Conservancy,” Newbold said, “spoke at MNMRC meetings and invited MNMRC representatives, including Ekolu Lindsey, myself and Jay and Maile Carpio, to meet with people from Fiji who had a success story to tell.
“Starting with one Community Managed Makai Area (CMMA), the number of CMMAs in Fiji grew to hundreds of communities successfully using traditional methods of community management to reverse the decline of fish populations and, more importantly, increase the number of fish and other seafood both on the reef and their dinner tables,” Newbold explained.
To bring the lesson home to West Maui, Newbold continued, “John offered to train MNMRC folks on the ‘How Tos’ of community management.”
“This is how I first met the Lindsey family,” Parks said. “I helped to organize and lead a series of three training workshops between 2010 and 2011 at Polanui for community representatives from three sites around Maui Nui: Polanui (Lahaina), Wailuku and Maunalei (Lanai).
“At the conclusion of these three trainings,” Park advised, “the three sites declared themselves CMMAs and since have moved community efforts to manage marine resources forward at each of their sites.”
With support and guidance from The Nature Conservancy and MNMRC, the Community Managed Makai Area movement on Maui is growing and now includes a network of six CMMAs.
“So it appears the Fijians were correct: start one and they’ll multiply!” Newbold explained like a proud mother.
(Next week, learn about Polanui Hiu, a Community Managed Makai Area formed in south Lahaina by a dedicated crew of eco-stewards.)