Supporting Continued Coral Reef and Watershed Management in West Hawai‘i

By: Stuart Goldberg  |  September 2017

Coastal environment in the West Hawai‘i Habitat Focus Area. Photo credit: Courtney Couch, Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology.

Coastal environment in the West Hawai‘i Habitat Focus Area. Photo credit: Courtney Couch, Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology.

In July 2017, NOAA awarded $250,000 in funding to The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Hawai‘i to continue activities and efforts to manage coral reefs and watersheds in West Hawai‘i. This award builds upon the partnership between NOAA and TNC established in 2014 as part of the West Hawai‘i Habitat Focus Area, one of 10 Habitat Focus Areas across the country. For more information on the West Hawai‘i Habitat Focus Area, please visit the NOAA Habitat Blueprint website.

West Hawai‘i is home to some of the State's longest adjoining coral reefs. These diverse and vibrant reefs support a variety of fish and coral species, and they are culturally and economically important to the local communities. Unfortunately, coral reefs are vulnerable to multiple threats, including rising ocean temperatures that cause coral bleaching, the delivery of excess nutrients, bacterial pathogens, eroded sediments from land-use change, and the unsustainable harvest of fishes. To deal with these threats, NOAA developed the following objectives:

Google map the Island of Hawai‘i and NOAA's West Hawai‘i Habitat Focus Area.

Map of the Island of Hawai‘i and NOAA's West Hawai‘i Focus Area.

Over the past few years, NOAA and TNC engaged in a direct collaborative effort to work closely with a variety of external partners the United States Geological Survey, the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources, the University of Hawai‘i, and various community organizations on implementing key activities to address the objectives above. Some of these key activities include projects that map erosion hot spots (that is, locations most susceptible to erosion), improve coral reef resilience to threats like stress and bleaching, restore fishponds, and develop community networks and action plans that promote grassroots community-based approaches to sustainable resource management and restoration.

A group of people working on the restoration project at Pelekane Bay Watershed.

Watershed restoration activities in Pelekane Bay Watershed to reduce erosion.

The future work funded by this award to TNC will focus on synthesizing the results from the activities mentioned above, amongst others, as well as developing recommendations with the communities, landowners, State agencies, and private businesses that promote sustainable management of marine and terrestrial resources.

Click to enlarge photos

Fishpond workday and restoration activities in West Hawai‘i. A healthy and expansive area coral reef ecosystem along the West Hawai‘i Habitat Focus Area. Kīholo Fishpond estuary provides habitat for native flora and fauna, including green sea turtles and native fish and algae. NOAA provides funding and support to TNC for their Kīholo activities, who in turn work closely with the local community members and other conservation partners to restore the fishpond and improve ecosystem health and water quality. Community involvement in fishpond restoration; underwater photo of West Hawai‘i's vibrant coral reef ecosystem; Kīholo Fishpond.

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