[Coral-List] Call to Action: Coral Reefs of Hawaii

Mike Field mfield at usgs.gov
Fri Apr 15 16:22:41 EDT 2016


Coral reefs of the Main Hawaiian Islands are at risk. Because protection for these reefs is minimal to non-existent, we are asking local and State legislators and managers to initiate protective strategies. On behalf of the 32 coral reef scientists and managers in Hawaii who have co-signed a Call to Action (see below), we invite you to join us in this effort to protect the coral reefs of Hawaii, initially by focusing on the prolific coral reefs surrounding the islands of Maui Nui (Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Kahoolawe). We are asking those of you with understanding of coral reefs and value of marine protected areas for coral reef survival to join us. This summer both the ICRS and ICUN will convene in Hawaii, and now is an excellent time to point out both the plight of Hawaiian coral reefs and potential solutions.

 -Some Background:
Most of us are now more fully aware that the impacts from climate change are very real, will be very damaging to coral reefs, and will be here very soon (where not already). The bleaching of Hawaiian coral reefs in 2015 was unprecedented in terms of spatial extent and severity. As many of you have documented, one possible solution—perhaps the only solution that we have control over—is to limit stresses from overfishing and land-based pollution wherever possible by both insisting on effective management and establishing complete protection for 20% or more of the coral reefs. At present, Hawaii trails nations worldwide, with less than 1% of its island reefs protected.

 -Another Consensus Statement? This one is different:
As most on coral-list are aware, there have been previous, exceptionally well-worded consensus statements and calls to action about the plight of coral reefs. We view this one as different in that it targets specific coral reef tracts and is addressed to the very people that can take the necessary actions. Whether or not it will succeed is unknown, but it is of paramount importance that we collectively make the effort.

We invite you visit our Facebook site at: 


Please read the Call To Action (pinned to the top of the Facebook timeline) and join us. The names of coral-reef scientists and managers in Hawaii who have already signed the Call To Action are listed on the Facebook site. You can give a “like” to the site, add a comment, or best, add your name to the Call To Action by emailing me offline at mfield at usgs.gov.

We thank you for your interest, concern, and action on behalf of the coral reefs of Hawaii!

    Mike Field, U.S. Geological Survey, Santa Cruz, CA 
    Robin Newbold, Maui Nui Marine Resource Council, Maui, HI

                                                                  CALL TO ACTION 

                                                                                        Preserving the Magnificent Coral Reefs of Maui Nui

The coral reefs of Maui, Moloka‘i, Läna‘i, and Kaho‘olawe compose the Maui Nui Reef, the largest, most complex, and richest coral reef ecosystem in the Main Hawaiian Islands. These reefs provide innumerable benefits to visitors and the people of the islands, including cultural (subsistence fishing and traditional practices), economic (storm protection, tourism, and commercial fishing), and recreational (diving and snorkeling) values. But coral reef health is declining globally, and the long-term survival of Maui Nui’s coral reefs is in serious jeopardy. Scientific evidence indicates reefs will suffer substantial and additional losses within two generations, forever altering the quality of life, culture, and economy for everyone unless actions are taken now to protect the most important areas.

Some nearshore fish stocks in Hawai‘i have declined by more than 90% over the past 100 years. These fisheries, and the reefs that protect them, are at risk from a multitude of problems, including terrestrial pollutants, ineffective storm water management, coastal development, and overfishing. Include global warming and ocean acidification on the list, and we are now facing certain loss of these magnificent reefs unless we act now to protect them. To counter these impacts, increase fish yields, and ensure the coral reefs of Maui Nui survive into the future, we need to establish a network of effectively managed marine areas immediately. 

Evidence from Hawai‘i and around the globe clearly shows that effectively managed reef ecosystems are more resilient to both human and natural disturbances than those that are poorly managed or not managed at all. Protecting just one quarter of a coral reef system through a network of managed areas, including marine protected areas, along with wise land management in adjacent watersheds and effective fisheries management in adjacent waters, will decrease stress on fishes, corals, and the entire reef community. By protecting and managing key coral reef segments, we will allow them to better withstand the chemical and heating threats that are occurring due to climate change, provide healthy source areas for fish and coral larvae, increase the resilience of Maui Nui coral reefs, and replenish our fisheries. The value to island residents of an effectively managed marine protected area network is priceless. Effective and adaptive management will mitigate land-based influences, increase sustainable fisheries, and help alleviate stress from climate change.

We therefore call on Maui County and the State legislature to establish the “Resilient Maui Nui Reef,” in collaboration with the island residents of Maui County, by creating a network of coral reef protected areas, which provide the necessary space and time for fish and corals to grow, reproduce, and have a better chance of surviving. The people of Hawai‘i and the coral reefs are deeply intertwined on many levels, and it is not overstated to say that our future and our culture depend on this action. 

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