Maunalua Bay at low tide, 2009.
Maunalua Bay at low tide, 2011
“The Great Huki not only cleaned up the bay, it pulled an entire community together.”
John Leong, founder, Pono Pacific, LLC
As a little girl, Karen Gleason spent her days running up and down the beautiful beach at Maunalua Bay, where families like hers would swim, fish and harvest seafood daily. The bay was a playground where she enjoyed clear waters and abundant marine life. Over time, however, she began to see the bay decline, as a suffocating non-native alga turned its clear blue waters a murky brown.
Fortunately the tides are turning. At a March celebration marking the successful removal of 23 acres of invasive seaweed, Karen spoke about what it meant to see the bay recovering.
“About 20 years ago the alien algae came in and our once beautiful bay took a steep tail dive,” she explained. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined seeing the fish return or that my grandchildren would be playing in the bay as I once did. I am so grateful…it is exciting to see the bay coming back to its original splendor.”
Karen was one of several local residents, partners and community volunteers who spoke at the completion ceremony for the Great Huki, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 project to restore Maunalua Bay. Held at Paiko Beach, the ceremony celebrated the project’s many accomplishments, including:
• 75 jobs created or retained
• 23 acres of invasive algae removed on time and under budget
• 2.9 million pounds of invasive algae removed, with no observed re-growth in the cleared areas and 100 percent of the algae recycled into compost for local farmers
• 8 local businesses engaged and 5 local farmers using the algae for compost material
• 7,000 volunteer hours logged from 3,000 community members and 12 schools
In June 2009, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) awarded The Nature Conservancy $3.4 million in “stimulus” funding to create new jobs and remove 23 acres of the invasive alga Avrainvillea amadelpha, or leather mudweed, from Maunalua Bay.
The Nature Conservancy managed the project in collaboration with community non-profit Mālama Maunalua, while Pono Pacific Land Management, a local natural resources company, hired workers to complete the bulk of the algae removal over a 12-month period.
“With our collective partnership, we put people to work to restore a vital marine resource for the people of Hawai‘i,” said Suzanne Case, the Conservancy’s Hawai‘i executive director. “There’s no better investment in our state than to improve the health of our ocean, which is a source of food, recreation, sustenance and income for many.”
Because the project was completed under budget, work by Pono Pacific to remove invasive algae continued through April and included re-planting native limu (algae) and sea grass. Monitoring and other science research will continue through December 2011.
“This was an ecological restoration project, but it was also a community restoration project,” said John Leong, president and CEO of Pono Pacific. “The Great Huki not only cleaned up the bay, it pulled an entire community together.”