Monday, January 25, 2010
Can we Save our Maui Coral Reefs?
One of the main reasons the reefs are declining is because the eco-system is out of balance and we as humans are to blame.
Here are some ways that all of us can help prevent Maui reefs from disappearing.
1. Don't feed the fish. Why? Because seaweed is one of their natural foods and they need to eat that, not frozen peas or other fish food, in order to keep the eco-system balanced. This reminds me of my first visit to Hawaii in the 80s when the dive shops used to give you frozen peas to feed the fish with. I guess they didn't know any better in those days!
2. Stop fishing for herbivorous fish, such as surgeon fishes, parrotfishes, rudder fishes and sea urchins. Why? Because they are a critical ingredient to a healthy reef . They eat seaweed (if people don't feed them), thus allowing more coral to become established. Otherwise the seaweed becomes algae infested and it eventually takes over the reef and kills the coral.
3. Don't stand on the coral. This should be a no-brainer but I have seen many snorkelers take a break by doing this very thing. Not only do they damage these live animals, but they may get a nasty surprise if they stand on a sea-urchin or other spiny sea creature.
4. Don't throw cigarette butts in the ocean or leave them on the beach. The toxins can kill the fish, and turtles mistake them for food and eat them. Yuck! There is actually an organization in Maui called. BOMB - "Butts off Maui Beaches". They would love to see a law prohibiting smoking on our Maui beaches. You can go to their website, link above, and sign a petition.
5. Don't pollute by throwing harmful toxic materials, soda cans etc. into the ocean. Sound like common sense but it happens. Pollution also occurs when fertilizers, nutrients and other toxic materials used in farming ultimately find their way into the ocean.
6. Locals can try to be more aware of what is going on so that they can speak up to their elected officials and demand change. Tourists could at least write letters to the editor if they have time on their short vacation.
The good news is that over in Kaanapali the state has established the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area. The main reason for this is to help protect fish and sea urchins that eat the seaweed, thereby protecting the coral. This is a great start!!!!
I just listened to an interview on this whole topic with Russell Sparks, who is Education Specialist for the Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources. I encourage all readers of Maui Vacation Guide to go to the link above and listen or read the transcript.
In conclusion, the answer to the title question is: Yes I believe that if we all become aware of the problem and work together, we can save our Maui Coral Reefs.
Would love to hear our readers comments on this topic.