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      Free Presentation on “Proposed Use of Oysters for Water Quality Improvement in Ma’alaea Harbor”

      The public is invited to a free presentation on a proposed plan to use oysters to improve ocean water quality in Ma’alaea Harbor during Maui Nui Marine Resource Council’s monthly meeting on Wednesday, December 5, from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm.

      The presentation will be offered by Rhiannon “Rae” Tereari‘i Chandler-‘Īao, Executive Director and O‘ahu Waterkeeper for Waiwai Ola Waterkeepers Hawaiian Islands. It will take place at Pacific Whale Foundation’s classrooms at the Ma’alaea Harbor Shops, 300 Ma’alaea Road. Admission is free and refreshments will be served.

      Oysters are filter feeders that remove pollutants from the water column including sediment, bacteria, heavy metals, PCBs, oil, microplastics, oxybenzone, and other harmful sunscreen-related chemicals. Oysters also digest the type of bacteria that cause skin-borne illnesses such as Staph and MRSA. These oysters are for restoration, they cannot be consumed. Oysters for consumption are grown in clean water only.

      Oysters are currently at work in harbor waters of New York and New Jersey, where Waterkeeper Alliance member projects have installed more than 42 million oysters to help clean the water and protect the coastline from wave action. Similar efforts are also being employed in Baltimore’s Chesapeake Bay to improve ocean water quality.

      Pacific oysters, the type of oyster considered for the pilot project in Ma’alaea Harbor, were originally introduced by the State in the 1950’s and 1960’s and are found in locations throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Adult Pacific oysters can filter more than 50 gallons of water per day. The proposed pilot project would involve the installation of approximately 1,000 oysters in cages beneath the docks of Ma’alaea Harbor away from boat traffic. Trained staff and volunteers will monitor the oysters to evaluate survival rates and their success in improving water quality. At the end of one year, the pilot project will yield a report to help determine the feasibility of expanding the project within the harbor.

      “In 2017, Hawai‘i’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) conducted a successful grow trial using Pacific oysters,” says Chandler-‘Īao “This DAR study, conducted in West Loch, demonstrated the oysters’ ability to remove various pollutants water column. We’re excited to see what is possible to improve conditions in Ma‘alaea Harbor.”

      Maui Nui Marine Resource Council (MNMRC) is partnering with Waiwai Ola Waterkeepers Hawaiian Islands to conduct the one-year pilot oyster project in Ma’alaea Harbor. The project is part of MNMRC’s overall plan to address land-based impacts to water quality in Ma’alaea Bay.

      Recently, MNMRC commissioned and funded a study of the watershed that drains into Ma’alaea Harbor. With the study in hand, the nonprofit is now evaluating recommendations for action steps, and will be selecting those that can be implemented in 2019 and beyond. “We are looking at ways we can work upslope to improve water quality throughout Ma’alaea Bay,” notes Amy Hodges, Programs Manager at Maui Nui Marine Resource Council, who has been meeting with local landowners, MECO, Hawai‘i’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Ma’alaea Community Association, and others to talk about ocean water quality in Ma’alaea.

      “Ma’alaea Bay is home to a popular surf break, beaches, a sea turtle feeding area, fishing areas, and coral reefs both inside and outside the harbor,” says Hodges. “Improving water quality in the harbor will benefit recreational users of the area and help marine wildlife.”

      At the meeting, MNMRC will provide information on new volunteer opportunities associated with this project, including helping MNMRC regularly monitor the oysters and clean the cages to remove excess algae.

      Doors will open at 5 pm, with complimentary holiday-themed refreshments. The presentation will begin at 5:30 pm and will include time for questions and comments from the public. To learn more, visit www.mauireefs.org.

      About our presenter:
      Rhiannon “Rae” Tereari‘i Chandler-‘Īao serves as the Executive Director and O‘ahu Waterkeeper for Waiwai Ola Waterkeepers Hawaiian Islands. She earned a B.A. in Ethnic Studies from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in 2004. After graduating from William S. Richardson School of Law in 2016 with certificates in both Native Hawaiian Rights Law and Environmental Law, she worked as a Post J.D. Research & Teaching Fellow at Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law. Prior to attending law school, Rhiannon served as the Executive Director of the environmental non-profit organization Community Work Day Program, d.b.a. Mālama Maui Nui. While on Maui, she served as a member of the Maui County Cultural Resources Commission, the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council, and the Steering Committee of Ka Ipu Kukui Fellows Leadership Program.

      About Maui Nui Marine Resource Council:
      Maui Nui Marine Resource Council is a nonprofit organization based on Maui, dedicated to healthy coral reefs, clean ocean water and abundant native fish. Founded in 2007, Maui Nui Marine Resource Council is celebrating its 11th anniversary this year. Some of the organization’s accomplishments include:

      • Formation of Maui Coral Reef Recovery Team and the Maui Coral Recovery Plan, the first of its kind in the state.

      • Forming Community Managed Makai (CMMA) areas, in which local residents work together to manage their marine resources.

      • Creating Hui O Ka Wai Ola in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and West Maui Ridge to Reef. This volunteer citizen-based ocean water quality testing program is now in its 2nd year of testing ocean water quality at 39 locations along Maui’s south and west shorelines every 3 weeks.

      To learn more, visit www.mauireefs.org

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