Experts: Bold, fast action needed to save Maui’s reefs
WAILUKU – We’ve heard it from all quarters – from the Maui County Council Chambers to the floor of the United Nations. Everyone agrees; you can’t hide coral bleaching and the catastrophic collapse of coral populations across the planet.
Maui has not been spared, and this “Side of Paradise” is in trouble as well.
Globally, conferences have been held, studies conducted and strategies drafted; it’s no small problem.
According to a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) report, reefs harbor as much diversity of life as a rainforest and protect the shorelines, lessening the force of the onslaught of damaging waves, fierce storms and dangerous currents.
The vital bio-structure surrounding our island is a resource lifeline that needs to recover, and we can all help.
In a press release, the state announced last week that the development of a comprehensive coral reef management plan for near-shore waters in the main Hawaiian Islands is underway.
Locally, the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council has been spot-on, spearheading efforts to change our attitude; getting our heads out of the sand, so to speak.
In a recent MNMRC Report, “Reversing the Decline,” other important land-links to the ocean structure were noted: “Maui is home to some of the largest and most complex coral reefs in the main islands. These reefs provide innumerable cultural, economic and recreational benefits to the people and the visitors of Maui. Continued losses will forever alter the economic value, quality of life and traditional and cultural connections of these irreplaceable resources for Maui’s people.”
The community nonprofit was founded in 2007. Its mission is to “bring human actions into balance with ecological principles through education, collaboration and advocacy, so that our near-shore waters will be restored to health with abundant life and sustained for future generations.”
In February, the MNMRC website posted, “The Maui County Council made history as they unanimously voted to adopt MNMRC’s resolution to: ‘Acknowledge the Importance to Protect and Enhance the Reef Ecosystems of Maui County.’
“The resolution is a strong step forward in ensuring our reefs are viable for future generations.”
Earlier this month, the MNMRC and Maui Coral Recovery Team (MCRT) released a disturbing analysis of deteriorating conditions: “Maui’s Coral Reefs: Declining Trends 1993-2015.”
The report summary was telling; it’s a stern warning:
During the past two decades, nearly one-quarter of Maui’s corals have been lost, with half of Maui’s reef sites currently experiencing declining health;
Since 1995, the biomass (amount by weight) of culturally and economically important reef fish species found on Maui’s reefs has declined significantly;
The average amount of reef fish found around Maui’s reefs is the second lowest of all the islands in the state, behind only Oahu;
Nearly 90 percent of water quality samples taken around Maui in the period 2012-2014 exceeded State Water Quality Standards for turbidity, nutrients and/or bacteria;
Further, the report noted the three primary drivers behind the negative trends: 1) Introduced land-based pollutants and sediments; 2) Overfishing, coupled with poor fishing regulation enforcements; and 3) Insufficient “resting” (kapu) sites to provide the adequate time and space for marine species to recover from stress and then spill over to replenish adjacent areas.
Last week, West Side County Councilwoman Elle Cochran, chairperson of the council’s Infrastructure and Environmental Management (IEM) Committee, opened the chambers to the MNMRC and its powerful team of marine resource panelists, including: Tegan Hammond, Maui Coral Reef Recovery Plan (MRCT) coordinator; Mike Field, senior scientist emeritus, U.S. Geological Survey; Ekolu Lindsey, cultural advisor, Polanui Hiu Community Managed Makai Area; Russell Sparks, Maui Division of Aquatic Resources; and Mark Deakos, director of the Hawaii Association for Marine Education and Research
Robin Newbold, MNMRC chair, was optimistic about the meeting of the minds.
“By all of us working together and promoting a collaborative approach to marine resource management, I’m confident we can do it. But we need to recognize how serious the situation is and how drastic the consequences are if we don’t act boldly and quickly. Now is not the time to debate or argue but to work together and take action,” she said.
Next week, learn what can be done, collectively and individually, to help reverse trends.