Hokule‘a, ocean stewards celebrate Olowalu reef’s recognition as a Hope Spot
OLOWALU – An iwa bird hovered high above the Hokule’a as she set anchor at Olowalu last week Thursday morning (Aug.17).
The ocean was shimmering; the winds were fair; it was an epically unique location for a press conference on Maui, with the corps shuttled on board the storied ocean voyager by canoe after canoe, paddling from the beach (at the Honoapi’ilani Highway 14-mile marker) and skimming the calm surface chop across the sandy and coral laden near shore waters.
Something surely to log – the breeze, the lapping seas, cool waters and a clear 360-degree view of the West Maui Mountains, neighboring islands, marine life, the Mo’okiha o Pi’ilani moored close by and good company.
The assembly of wayfarers was honored to hear the latest good news for our ocean, reefs and planet.
On board to make the announcement were community leaders, superhero ocean protectors Tiare Lawrence, Dr. Mark Deakos, waterman Archie Kalepa and Pacific Voyaging Society (PVS) President Nainoa Thompson.
Lawrence, a Lahaina native, is one of the organizers of the Olowalu Community Managed Makai Area (CMMA) and Malama Olowalu.
“We are so proud to announce that our Olowalu mother reef is being recognized by Mission Blue as a Hope Spot,” Lawrence advised.
“With this, we hope that we can continue to build community awareness around the world about our mother coral here and bring more attention to climate change and sea level rise and the impacts that land use is having on our reef.”
Led by world-renowned international oceanography, Mission Blue, according to its website, “is uniting a global coalition to inspire an upwelling of public awareness, access and support for a worldwide network of marine protected areas Hope Spots.”
“We’re so grateful to have this recognition here at Olowalu. It’s the first of its kind in Hawaii Nei,” Lawrence added.
It was a group effort.
Mark Deakos, executive director of the Hawaii Association for Marine Education and Research (HAMER), submitted a petition for Hope Spot designation with assistance from the Olowalu CMMA, Malama Olowalu, The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, Maui Nui Marine Resource Council and the Maui Nui Makai Network.
“With strong support from Nainoa Thompson and Archie Kalepa with the Polynesian Voyaging Society, as well as Dr. Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue Alliance, this puts Olowalu on the world stage as a critical marine habitat that needs significant protection. We hope this larger alliance will allow the Olowalu community to revive traditional management practices that will restore the health of the reef for future generations and prevent the poor land-use practices and urbanization that have devastated reefs elsewhere on Maui,” Deakos told the Lahaina News.
Kalepa is equally pleased with the appointment of Olowalu as a Hope Spot, sharing his mana’o last Thursday.
He called it a “jewel” of a partnership.
“This is pretty amazing, having grown up here in Lahaina – spent some time fishing here when I was a young child with my grandfather. Pretty amazing to see how beautiful this place is from the ocean,” he said.
Noting the benefits, Kalepa continued: “We’re beginning to understand the importance of why these places are so important – not only to our community but also to the ecosystem that live here. I think that by Tiare and Mission Blue picking up these kinds of projects and becoming stewards to protect and preserve what beauty we have left in Hawaii and Olowalu, in particular, I think we’re at a very good place and at a very good time,” the veteran waterman said.
Deakos described the new Hope Spot: “The Olowalu Reef extends from Olowalu to Ukumehame and is just under 1,000 acres of reef. The oldest coral aged in the Main Hawaiian Islands is in Olowalu.”
He offered some historical perspective into that account. “Despite having survived nearly 300 years at Olowalu, witnessing King Kamehameha joining the islands, the Olowalu Massacre, the arrival of the missionaries, the plantation era and the whaling era she has been unable to handle what we have thrown at her in the past 20 years. In 2016, after the severe coral bleaching event of 2015, she was 90 percent dead.”
Lawrence was passionate: “For thousands of years, the reef has given us so much; and, with all the stress that we’ve experienced on our reef and around the world – with climate change and everything else – we’re just super grateful.
“Right now is the best time for us to give back and take on that kuleana and be the stewards and give back to our mother reef here. Our mother reef spawns corals to (West Maui), Lanai and Molokai. If Olowalu is under stress, (West Maui), Molokai and Lanai, too, are under stress.”
“We’re extremely proud of this recognition; and, we hope that through that, we can continue to build community awareness here on Maui and throughout the world.”
Thompson took a back seat, but he was nonetheless impressive and far-reaching with his words to the onboard gathering.
“There is a new language here on Earth that started maybe three decades ago, but nobody really thought to pay attention to it. Stuff like climate change, stuff like global warming (and) stuff like sea level rising,” he said.
More concerning, he said, were words “like acidification, hot spots, dead zones.”
“I have been around the world. I looked at moving from the era of destruction to the Earth towards renewal,” he said.
Thompson is assured by “communities coming together, cultures coming together, indigenous knowledge coming together, science coming together and figuring out solutions.”
Thompson is committed: “I believe the children should have a right to a green and healthy world.”
“We’re home,” Thompson announced, “we arrived two months ago, but the most important leg of that worldwide voyage is the one that we’re on now,” the first of 42 stops of the Mahalo, Hawai’i Sail.
He challenged the community to avoid apathy, ignorance and inaction.
The world is looking to Hawaii as a global role model, Thompson added.
“There is no place on the Earth that is moving at the rapid pace to take care of their home than Hawaii,” he said.
“I’m honored to be here and very, very privileged, and thank you for shining the light, Olowalu.”
Lawrence encouraged participation from all quarters.
“They can reach out to us on Facebook at Malama Olowalu, the Nature Conservancy, the Maui Nui Marine (Resource Council) network. There’s a bunch of organizations. We’re coming together. We really want to create a vision and a plan of mauka to makai stewardship here in Olowalu that’s from the community, by the community and for the community.
“So please get involved; let’s do this together and move forward,” Lawrence invited.
Ekolu Lindsey, facilitator of the Lahaina Polanui Hiu CMMA, shared his deep connection and vision.
“My hope is this designation sheds a light on the importance of Olowalu’s reef, and all coral reefs for that matter. Creating an awareness on the importance on how we utilize these reefs, the impacts we have, both in and out of the water,” Lindsey said. “This is an opportunity for all commercial operators, who utilize reef systems as a place of business, to assess their practices, increase their cultural science knowledge base and ensure these reefs lasts forever!
“The Kumu Lipo (a Hawaiian cosmogonic and genealogical chant) is an 1,102-line description of the creation of life. Line 15 states, ‘Hanau ka Uku-ko’ako’a, hanau kana, he ‘Ako’ako’a, puka’ (Born was the coral polyp, born was the coral, came forth). This speaks to the importance of the coral polyp as life begins and seen through the na’au of our ancestors.
“Let’s honor them, each other and our future by taking care of life from the beginning The coral Polyp,” Lindsey concluded.