Maui News

Volunteers Working For Cleaner Water Following Widespread Coral Bleaching

December 25, 2019, 9:30 AM HST
* Updated December 24, 3:51 PM
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In response to widespread coral bleaching in Maui waters earlier this year, community organizers are working to help reefs better survive rising ocean temperatures in the future.

The volunteer-based “Hui O Ka Wai Ola” (Association of Living Waters) is organizing efforts to achieve cleaner water in nearshore areas by the islandʻs fringing coral reefs.

Comprised of a little over 30 volunteers, the group monitors ocean water quality at 41 locations in south and west Maui.

“Coral reefs are extremely susceptible to even slight changes in ocean chemistry,” Maui Nui Marine Resource Council programs manager Amy Hodges said in a press release.

“To protect the corals, we need to understand the ocean chemistry of our coastal areas, so we can better protect our reef ecosystems from harm and improve their resiliency against stressors such as warming ocean water.”

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The program works with the state Department of Health clean water branch, following strict protocol to generate data that could help elected officials identify where and why ocean water quality is impaired to better enact solutions.

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The program gathers data on 13 water quality factors, including turbidity, temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen (DO), pH and dissolved nutrients including nitrogen and phosphorous at each site.

“Excessive amounts of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous from fertilizers or wastewater can cause excessive overgrowths of algae, which can smother corals,” said James Strickland, project manager.

“Sediment washing into the ocean from unused agricultural fields, construction sites or areas where wildfires have stripped away vegetation can also stress corals. We gather this data to help our community solve these ocean water quality problems, and ultimately, to give Mauiʻs reefs their best shot at survival.”

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Hui O Ka Wai Ola receives funding from the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority and the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development. The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and Lahainaluna High School donate lab space for the program.

Click here to see data the volunteers collected.

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