The Conservancy’s Hawai‘i Marine Program was launched in 2001 to restore and protect the nearshore coral reefs and marine resources surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands.
Today, less than 1 percent of our nearshore waters and coral reefs are adequately protected. To restore and protect these resources for future generations, the Conservancy is working with local communities and conservation partners in four key areas:
Hawaii's coral reefs and nearshore waters are home to more than 7,000 marine life forms, a quarter of them found nowhere else on Earth.
These nearshore marine ecosystems support some of the nation’s most endangered marine species, including monk seals and sea turtles, as well as rich fisheries that provide an important source of food for Hawaii’s people and a deep connection to the traditional culture of native Hawaiians.
More than 300,000 acres of coral reefs surround the main Hawaiian Islands. These reefs serve as nature’s breakwaters, sheltering island communities from the destructive power of the sea. They also provide countless other benefits, including the fresh fish, surf and beaches enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.
As a source of food, recreation and income, Hawaii’s reefs contribute more than $360 million annually to the state’s economy—or roughly $1 million a day.
Despite their biological, cultural and economic importance, Hawaii’s nearshore marine ecosystems are being altered and depleted at rates that far outstrip current conservation efforts.
With a resident population of 1.3 million and 7 million annual visitors—the majority of whom engage in ocean-related activities—Hawaii’s reefs are strained beyond capacity.
Overfishing, sedimentation, land-based pollution, recreational overuse and invasive species all jeopardize the health of our reefs and have resulted in a 75% decline in nearshore reef fish populations over the past century. When combined with the anticipated affects of future climate change, the need to protect the islands’ coral reefs has never been more urgent.
The good news is that reefs are resilient—if we act in time, we can restore them.