Ask the Mayor: Should Molokini’s Snorklers Be Regulated?

October 26, 2015, 7:36 AM HST · Updated October 26, 7:40 AM
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Molokini, file photo by Wendy Osher.

Molokini, file photo by Wendy Osher.

Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the most-asked questions submitted to his office staff.

Dear Mayor,

Q: My wife and I went out snorkeling at Molokini on our boat the other day. We noticed that the reefs looked more dead than in past trips. I saw article saying that 50 percent of the reef is dead. Why isn’t there more regulation on access to Molokini? These massive commercial boats are bringing herds of people multiple times per day. At what point do you start regulating or is Molokini going to be just another sacrifice for the almighty dollar? Enjoy-it-until-it’s-gone mentality… humans just never learn.

A: Aloha. The article you are referring to did not say the coral was dead, but that about 50 to 75 percent of it around Maui had shown signs of bleaching, including about 50 percent of the coral at Molokini located at a depth of 40 feet or more. Coral can recover from bleaching, but that remains to be seen after this year’s unprecedented warm waters. The article said nothing about human snorkelers visiting the area being somehow responsible for bleaching or killing coral reefs, especially not at an area like Molokini.

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The coral there is at a depth where it’s not easily reachable by tourists, and most like yourself are content to swim above the coral and look at it rather than dive down without scuba gear and touch it. Also please note that the coral ecosystem at Molokini is a protected reserve, and is a healthier marine ecosystem than other parts of our ocean where we don’t have those protections in place.

Personally, I am more concerned about the other 98 percent of our waters that don’t have the same protections as at Molokini. But I will agree with you on one thing: Sometimes human beings never learn from their mistakes. Mahalo for writing.

Want to Ask the Mayor?

Submit your questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa via email, by phone at 270-7855 or by mail to 200 S. High St., 9th Floor, Wailuku, HI 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the Ask the Mayor column.

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