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Get involved in mauka to makai stewardship efforts in West Maui at upcoming events

By Staff | Oct 3, 2019

In a photo from 2013, volunteers John and Karen Seebart work together to remove marine debris from the reef in the KHFMA. PHOTO BY DON McLEISH.

KAANAPALI – We are Karen and John Seebart. We have been volunteers at the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area (KHFMA) since about 2006. This was actually before the KHFMA was formed. Liz Foote and Darla White got us involved. It was also before we met.

We had both recently returned to Hawaii from our careers on the Mainland. Both of us left Hawaii as children – Karen from Oahu and I from Lahaina.

For me, the changes I saw here were devastating. I wanted to help “save something,” and I started with Darla doing fish and reef surveys.

I met this beautiful girl at the coffee shop in Napili, but she could never remember my name (very discouraging). Our first date was a swim at Airport Beach. It turned out she is a mermaid – a very dedicated swimmer and reef warrior.

Swimming together, we learned that we were both volunteering, on our own, for the programs Darla and Liz coordinated.

Together, we have been involved in various fish and reef surveys, and fisher outreach. In the beginning, we met with a lot of resistance from people walking on and otherwise damaging the coral. It also took a while before most people learned that it was a protected area. There have been a few tense moments.

It was also a little difficult because, though it is a protected area, fishing is still allowed. Only the limu (algae) eaters, the herbivores, are protected.

The state protected this area because of the eutrophication occurring there, caused by the nitrogen-rich R1 water issuing from the injection wells, causing algae to flourish and cover the reef, smothering the coral.

We also participated in the various hearings on the Lahaina injection wells, including the injection well working group initiated by Mayor Tavares.

The idea is the herbivores, if allowed to flourish, could keep the algae in check. Not only has this worked, increasing the number of herbivores, but we now see more predatory species as well, which is a sign of improving reef health.

We were original members in the Makai Watch program, which has now combined forces with the West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative, which is coordinated by Tova Callender, and with which we have also been involved.

Now we are seeing evidence of coral bleaching. Water as much as three degrees Celsius warmer than the average temperatures of the past causes the coral polyps to expel the symbiotic algae, zooxanthellae, which the corals depend on and which give the individual corals their colors, leaving just the white polyps and substrate (hence, the term “bleaching”).

We have also been involved in beach erosion problems in Kahana near Hoohui Street.

The bleaching and the erosion problems are symptomatic of our warming world. We are interested in the question, what can be done about global warming?

From our experiences at Kahekili, seeing the fish populations increase, we believe that much could be done to increase fish populations island-wide. The scientists we have met at Kahekili believe that community-managed sustainable fisheries that would allow more abundant fish populations and better fishing are possible.

There are some current efforts in that direction on Molokai, Kauai, West Hawaii, the North Shore area of Maui and Oahu. I believe three or four of these are Makai Watch programs and part of the Community-Managed Makai Area Network.

For those interested in learning more about the KHFMA as well as mauka to makai stewardship efforts in West Maui, please join us at the tenth annual Ridge to Reef Rendezvous and Keiki and Ohana Catch & Release Fishing Tournament at Kahekili Beach Park (Old Airport Beach in North Kaanapali) on Saturday, Oct. 26.

Leading up to the celebration, organizing partners are also hosting a series of presentations on Wednesday evenings, a K-12 student art contest and social media messaging challenge, and a ridge to reef cleanup with Maui Diving-Scuba & Snorkel Center, followed by a reef-themed beer release party at Kohola Brewery on Oct. 20.

For more information, visit West Maui Kumuwai’s website (www.WestMauiKumuwai.org > News & Events) or Facebook page, e-mail WestMauiKumuwai@gmail.com, or call (808) 283-1631.

The location for the Ridge to Reef Rendezvous, Kahekili Beach Park, is privately owned and maintained by the Kaanapali North Beach Masters Association at their sole expense. This beach park property and its facilities are made available to the public for primarily casual park uses and beach access; subject to signage at the park which clearly indicates and states rules and regulations for use and enjoyment of the facilities during posted hours only and strictly prohibiting commercial uses.