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Swim for Science on Earth Day at Kahekili Beach Park

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A school of juvenile parrotfishes, protected within the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area, swims over the reef in spring of 2014, an optimistic sign signaling early stages of this reef’s recovery. Credit: Liz Foote

The Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area will host a swim for science event and talk story session on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22, 2017.

The gathering is a sister event to the national Smithsonian Institution’s Earth Optimism Summit.

The public is invited to join members of the community, resource managers, scientists, and conservationists at 1 p.m. on Kahekili Beach in North Kāʻanapali.


The event will kick off with a gathering focused on Earth Optimism.  Guests will join in discussing areas of environmental concern and conservation success in the community and globally.

That will be followed by the opportunity to Swim for Science as an ocean-themed extension of the March for Science (the official March for Science on Maui will be taking place from 9 to 11 a.m. at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College in Kahului).

Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego scientist Samantha Clements conducting research at Kahekili Reef, the location for the Earth Optimism Summit sister event on Maui as well as a ‘Swim for Science’ offshoot of the international March for Science occurring on Earth Day 2017. Credit: Samantha Clements

Dr. Emily Kelly and her colleagues from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego have been studying the reef at Kahekili for over a decade.


Together they conceived of the idea of an ‘underwater’ march in conjunction with the Earth Optimism Summit; as Dr. Kelly notes, “we value science to learn about our world and inform policy; however, we don’t always have the opportunity to share the scientific results we have been gathering all these years directly with the community. Therefore we swim in support of science and the Earth Optimism we have as a result of seeing improved ecosystem health at Kahekili.”

Participants will have the chance to learn about the Eyes of the Reef Reporting Network, a statewide citizen science effort that anyone can do.

According to Darla White of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Aquatic Resources and an Eyes of the Reef program coordinator, “as we celebrate the value of science in understanding our world, don’t forget that your contribution is so important. Maui Nui’s coral reefs are some of the most valuable reefs in the Main Hawaiian Islands and they are all connected; however, many are stressed by land-based pollution, overfishing, and warming oceans. Therefore, it is more important than ever to keep your eyes open for changes (e.g. white coral; increases in algae) and report them to the Eyes of the Reef Network. Your reports matter.”


Event organizers say that, “While there are many environmental concerns in our world today, there is also cause for celebration of conservation efforts that have resulted in success. That is the idea behind the Earth Optimism Summit, a global initiative spearheaded by the Smithsonian Institution that celebrates a change in focus from problem to solution, from a sense of loss to one of hope, in the dialogue about conservation and sustainability.”

On Maui, those who have supported, managed and enforced the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area for over seven years are also celebrating.  Organizers say this unique Marine Managed Area is showing signs of success; however, reef recovery is a long process that requires sustained action and support from the community.

Event organizers agree that the story of the KHFMA is inspirational in many ways, particularly because “it’s an example of a marine managed area that didn’t need to be ‘closed down’ to result in early improvements such as more and bigger fishes,” according to Liz Foote, one of the event’s organizers.

“It still has a long road ahead, but the more people who follow the rules and share them with others–along with the message of why this area is special–the better a chance it has to recover and benefit the surrounding areas and the people who want to visit and harvest from them,” said Foote.

Finally, Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement officers will also be in attendance to host a walk-and-talk-story with participants to share enforcement perspectives of the KHFMA. They will have fishing-related giveaways to share along with refreshments provided by the organizers. Edward “Luna” Kekoa, DOCARE’s Statewide Makai Watch Coordinator, underscores the importance of this opportunity for community to come together during this event: “we believe in collaboration and partnerships but lack the relationships with one another, therefore, we talk story.” To accomplish this, in addition to walking the beach with enforcement officers, an informal panel discussion will be held, entitled “A Fisherman, a Scientist, a Manager, and an Enforcement Officer walk into a beach park.”

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