Monday, January 25, 2010

Can we Save our Maui Coral Reefs?

A Healthy Coral Reef
It is rather shocking to realize that the Coral reefs in Maui are in mortal danger. Locals and tourists alike need to be more aware of this situation, so that we can all take steps towards restoring these amazing ocean treasures and preventing any more damage in the future.
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.


  1. Problems I see for the Maui reefs:

    1. No fishing licenses or catch limits for fisherman. This is essential to fund enforement and conservation programs. Same goes for the fish collectors. They don't have to pay anything and can take as many Yellow Tangs, etc they can catch.
    2. DLNR's reef resoration boils down to dumping concrete blocks off the coast (and doing it poorly). They really need to do more reef restoration projects. If you look at Mala Warf it could be a lot better with coral cages populated by transplanted corals. It may be a lot more work but the rewards are realized much faster and result in a much better reef.
    3. No limits on the golf course. Golf and reefs are mortal enemies with all their pesticides and run-off. All the fertilizers create the algae blooms your talking about on the reef. Ulua can be terrible at times. Maui is controlled by the developers and hotels.
    4. Human waste being dumped into the ocean with little treatment. To be a sustainable society we need to have top quality sewage systems and only discharge treated water into the ocean.

    I'm just a Maui scuba diver and those are the issues I see with the Maui reefs.

    It's nice to see someone post about the Maui Reefs! Thanks for your efforts.


  2. Good for you for bringing awareness to this issue! I had no idea it was going on, but sadly I am not surprised. The more everyone is aware of exactly what is contributing to the harm of the Maui Coral Reefs the easier it will be to make those necessary changes.

  3. Just read an article on the Pacific Garbage Patch The beaches on the Big Island are starting to have a large percentage sand made up of garbage.

  4. Mahalo Julie for taking the initiative of mentioning what's happening to our corals. Sean definitely added some good points too.

    The issue is to get the message not just to our Hawaii visitors - most scuba diving and boat tours share this knowledge with their visitors these days - but also to our legislature to initiate new laws which help to protect the land and the ocean.

    Aloha Pua
    Best Hawaii Vacation Blog

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