The water quality in Ma‘alaea Harbor and Ma’alaea Bay is compromised by storm water and sediment run-off, as well as other pollution originating from land. This nearshore ocean pollution adversely impacts areas adjacent to the harbor that are important recreational swimming and surfing areas. The pollution also undermines the health of coral reefs and sea turtle feeding areas just outside the harbor. Studies have shown that sedimentation originating in Ma’alaea Bay drifts towards the coral reefs of Olowalu.
Our two-part “Vision for Pohakea”
Maui Nui Marine Resource Council (MNMRC) is working on a plan, called “Vision for Pohakea,” to reduce sediment and pollutants in Ma’alaea Bay and Ma’alaea Harbor.
Pohakea is the name of the watershed measuring about 5,268 acres upslope from Ma’alaea Bay. Pohakea watershed has several gulches that all discharge into Ma’alaea Bay and the harbor.
Part 1: Using oysters to improve water quality
The first part of our “Vision for Pohakea” is a proposed pilot project to use oysters to help improve ocean water quality at the harbor. We are an affiliate of Waterkeeper Alliance, and are working on this oyster pilot project with them.
As filter feeders, oysters can remove sediment, bacteria, heavy metals, PCBs, oil, micro-plastics and nutrients from the water column. Oysters also digest the type of bacteria that cause skin-borne illnesses such as Staph and MRSA.
The proposed project is modeled after several successful projects on the East Coast involving the use of oysters to improve water quality, including the highly effective NY/NJ Baykeeper project at Naval Weapons Station Earle in New Jersey.
Part 2: Working upslope in Pohakea watershed
As part of our work to improve ocean water quality in this nearshore area, Maui Nui Marine Resource Council is also working in Pohakea watershed to prevent sediment-laden runoff, debris and pollutants from entering the bay and harbor.
We’ve commissioned and paid for a detailed stormwater management plan by local environmental management experts to help us understand the problems and challenges in Pohakea watershed, and to identify projects on land that we can implement in the near future. Please visit this page again for updates on our oyster project and our projects in the Pohakea watershed.