“Rally for the Reefs” webinar on Thursday, June 16 will focus on saving the reefs of Māʻalaea Bay

Speakers Stuart Coleman, Rep. Angus McKelvey and Maui County Councilmember Kelly King will provide updates on Māʻalaea wastewater treatment options

MĀʻALAEA, HI – Longtime Māʻalaea resident Peter Cannon remembers that during his childhood, “the coral reefs of Māʻalaea Bay were like the robust and healthy reefs that you see today at the ʻĀhihi-Kīnaʻu Natural Area Reserve.” He recalls that local families enjoyed harvests of ribbon limu from the bay, and there was an abundance of native fish and opae.

Since the 1970s, the coral reefs in Māʻalaea Bay have degraded so severely that Hawaii’s Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) has described the situation as “a case study in total system collapse.” In their report, “Status and Trends of Maui’s Coral Reefs” DAR in partnership with the Coral Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program reported on their 1999 monitoring in Māʻalaea Bay and noted that the “end result of reef degradation is evident in Māʻalaea Bay.”

The report noted that in 1972, “Māʻalaea coral reefs were described as being ‘striking in their diversity and in the presence of rare corals species’. As late as 1993, estimated coral cover was 50- 75% close to the site where cover is now 8%. Therefore, in just a few decades, the Māʻalaea reef has transformed from a healthy and diverse ecosystem into a badly degraded habitat overgrown by algae and with little surviving coral.”

The report also noted that fish stocks in in Māʻalaea are now in very poor condition, and the reefs have been invaded by alien and invasive algae species.

Declining ocean water quality in Māʻalaea Bay is a major contributor of the decline. A new report for the years 2019 – 2022 by the Hui O Ka Wai Ola community-based ocean water quality monitoring program indicates that Māʻalaea Bay has excessive levels of nitrates, second only to the levels in Kihei Cove, of all the sites the program monitors along the leeward Maui coast.

What can Maui County residents and visitors do to improve the ocean water quality and save the reefs of Māʻalaea Bay? Learn about the steps that are proposed — and how individuals can help – at an online Rally for the Reefs webinar to be held on Thursday, June 16 at 5:30 pm via Zoom.

Admission is free, but reservations are required. To reserve your spot, visit https://bit.ly/Rally4Reefs.

The “Rally for the Reefs” webinar will feature presentations by:

Stuart Coleman
Founder and Executive Director of WAI (Wastewater Alternatives & Innovations)
Coleman will discuss modern wastewater alternatives and innovations that will make it possible to reduce the pollution that has been harming the corals in Māʻalaea Bay.

Maui County Councilmember Kelly Takaya King
(Holds the County Council seat for South Maui)
Councilmember King will discuss the funding for the improved wastewater treatment system for Māʻalaea in the County’s 2023 budget and the steps ahead to make this system a reality.

State Representative Angus L.K. McKelvey
(Representing West Maui – Māʻalaea – North Kihei)
Representative McKelvey will explain how the State can help establish improved wastewater treatment in Māʻalaea, and why the proposed wastewater treatment project in Māʻalaea could serve as a model for other small communities throughout Hawaii that are looking for replacements for cesspools, injection wells and septic systems.

“The community has been working hard to identify and address the problems that have undermined the ocean water quality of Māʻalaea Bay and harmed the coral reefs,” said Mike Fogarty, Executive Director of Maui Nui Marine Resource Council. “We’ve now reached critical junctures that will decide if and when some of the proposed solutions to the problems of water pollution and reef loss will be addressed. We need to act now to save Māʻalaea’s reefs before it’s too late. Please attend the Rally for the Reefs to learn what can and should be done.”

The Rally for the Reefs webinar is sponsored by WAI, Maui Ocean Center, Māʻalaea Village Association, Maui Nui Marine Resource Council, Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute and Sierra Club Maui Group.

To register to attend this free Zoom event, please visit https://bit.ly/Rally4Reefs.

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