Scientists Take Action to Reverse Coral Reef Declines on Maui


Maui Now Staff

January 16, 2017

In the last 20 years, 25% of Maui’s surveyed coral reefs have died and 50% are declining in health, according to the nonprofit Maui Nui Marine Resource Council.

The organization is continuing efforts to reverse this trend, and in doing so, convened its Maui Coral Reef Recovery Team for its 14th meeting to provide specific guidance towards saving Maui’s coral reefs.

Discussions centered on addressing land based sources of pollution, water quality monitoring, community-based management, and Governor Ige’s commitment to effectively managing 30% of Hawaiʻi’s nearshore ocean waters by 2030.

“Maui’s coral reefs are some of the most well-developed reefs in Hawaiʻi. Unfortunately, they are facing serious threats – from land-based pollution to overfishing,” said Dr. Bob Richmond, Chair of the Maui Coral Reef Recovery Team and Director of UH Mānoa’s Kewalo Marine Laboratory. “Our goal is to support local, community-based solutions that will mitigate these threats.”

To address declining coral trends, MNMRC formed the MCRT in 2010. Comprised of leading coral reef scientists, resource managers, cultural advisors, and community members, the MCRT helps develop solutions for improving water quality, native fish populations, and coral reef health.

Scientists have documented serious declines in the health and abundance of corals and reef fish populations at eight important coral reefs on Maui in the last 20 years. Major threats facing Maui’s reef include: land-based pollution, over-fishing, declining water quality, invasive algae, coastal development, recreational overuse, and climate change.

Despite these declining trends, MCRT members agreed that reversing the decline of coral reef health is more likely to occur within Maui Nui than elsewhere in the Hawaiian Islands, due in part to the geographic connection between the four islands and the Network of Community Managed Makai Areas.

“Maui Nui Marine Resource Council is a critical part of Maui’s reef recovery efforts and, with broad support from both the local and scientific communities, is well poised to locally lead Governor Ige’s 30×30 initiative,” said Dr. Richmond.  “Maui’s reefs are at a crossroads, and our actions in the next few years will determine the fate of these important ecosystems.”

MNMRC formed the Maui Coral Reef Recovery Team in 2010  to help address major threats to Maui’s reefs. The MCRT is comprised of leading coral reef scientists, resource managers, and community members.

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