Our mission at Hawaiian Paddle Sports involves community, culture, and protecting what we love in this world. We are proud to sponsor Maui Nui Marine Resource Council, a local non profit working to restore clean water, abundant native fish populations, and healthy coral reefs to the islands of Maui Nui.
Maui Nui Marine Resource Council: Protecting Maui’s Coral Reefs
Over 60% of coral reefs in United States waters are found within the Hawaiian Archipelago. Coral reefs form the backbone of Hawaii’s economy, culture, and recreation. They provide food for local families, protect coastlines from large waves and storms, and support a $12 billion annual tourism industry.
Despite their clear importance, Hawaii’s coral reefs are facing immediate and significant threats – from global climate change to overfishing. On Maui, it is estimated that 25% of the island’s reefs have been lost beyond repair, and 50% are currently declining. Locally, Maui Nui Marine Resource Council actively works to reverse coral reef decline. As part of Hawaiian Paddle Sports’ monthly Malama Maui giveback program, employees from Hawaiian Paddle Sports, Maui Kayak Adventures, and Maui Stand Up Paddle Boarding teamed up with Maui Nui Marine Resource Council to document coral reef health along West Maui and learn about ways to support healthy, thriving reefs.
Clean Water + Healthy Fish = Thriving Coral Reefs
Coral reefs require two essential elements: clean water and healthy fish populations.
Corals derive the majority of their food and energy from sunlight. When sediments from land wash into the ocean, they increase the water’s turbidity or cloudiness. The cloudier the water, the harder it is for sunlight to reach corals. Corals also expend more energy in an attempt to remove sediments. If heavy sediments persist for long periods of time, corals will not receive sufficient nutrients and will die.
Left: Polluted runoff can smother corals and prevent sunlight from reaching reefs; Right: Healthy reefs require clean water and robust fish populations (PC: Pauline Fiene with permission from MNMRC).
Clean water is critical for healthy, thriving reefs. In urban areas, storm drains are a major contributor to poor water quality and carry pollutants from the land directly into the ocean. Storm drains are often fed by street gutters, and are designed to drain excess rain and ground water from paved streets, parking lots, sidewalks, and even roofs. Water running off of these surfaces can pick up gasoline, heavy metals, trash, motor oil, and fertilizers and pesticides from lawns, parks, and golf courses. In many cases, the water from storm drains is not treated. Instead, this water drains directly from the street – with all pollutants included – from the grate on the sidewalk into the lakes oceans, or rivers located downstream. Fertilizers from agricultural lands and human wastewater from cesspools or injection wells can lead to increases in nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.
In order to help raise awareness about storm drain pollution, Hawaiian Paddle Sports partnered with Maui Nui Marine Resource Council and Polanui Hiu to stencil 13 storm drains in the Shark Pit neighborhood of Lahaina. Storm drain stenciling reminds people not to dump polluted water or items (like paint, fertilizers, and even dirty water from washing a car) down the storm drain. As the saying goes, “only rain down the drain!”.
In addition to clean water, reef fish also play a critical role in maintaining the overall health of Maui’s coral reefs. Herbivores (plant eaters) like surgeonfish, sea urchins, and parrotfish keep algae in check. Small cleaner wrasses keep other fish healthy by removing parasites and even dead skin. Larger predators like sharks and jacks maintain reef balance by removing weak or sick fish. This helps minimize the spread of disease and prevents certain species from dominating the reef.
To support MNMRC’s efforts, Hawaiian Paddle Sports team members joined MNMRC and Polanui Hiu for a volunteer day at the Polanui Hiu site in West Maui. In addition to storm drain stenciling, Hawaiian Paddle Sports’ employees also participated in reef fish surveys at the Polanui Hiu site. Reef fish surveys help determine the abundance of important reef fish species, which in turn can be an indicator of reef ecosystem health. Long-term reef fish data, like that collected at Polanui Hiu, is critical to supporting sustainable actions on the reef.
A Community-based Approach to Coral Reef Conservation
Community plays an important role in conserving coral reefs. Individual actions can greatly reduce runoff, improve water quality, and support healthy fish populations. Maui Nui Marine Resource Council (MNMRC) promotes coral reef conservation by building local capacity and knowledge, and supporting community-based programs to reverse coral decline in Maui County.
Since 2007, MNMRC has worked at the local level to actively improve water quality and recover fish populations. The organization hosts community workshops, testifies at County Council hearings, connects concerned citizens to relevant information and issues, and actively engages County, State, and Federal agencies to strengthen marine-based policies.
How You Can Help
- Newsletter Sign Up – Get the latest Action Alerts and coral reef news by signing up for MNMRC’s ‘Reef in Brief’ monthly newsletter.
- Donate – Support Maui Nui Marine Resource Council with a monetary donation by mail, phone or online.
- Join the Council – Maui Nui Marine Resource Council is comprised of 28 voting members who represent a variety of stakeholders. There are currently openings to fill council seats. Download an application and email [email protected] for more information.
- Become a Corporate or Business Sponsor – Contact [email protected] for more information about becoming a corporate or business sponsor.