"The good news is that reefs are resilient—if we act in time, we can restore them."
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:
- Science and conservation planning to monitor the health and abundance of Hawaii’s marine resources, identify major threats and develop strategies for protection.
- Community-based marine conservation to build local community capacity for marine stewardship.
- Development of new innovative technologies to control the spread of harmful invasive marine species.
- A Marine Conservation Fellowship Program to build a new generation of marine resource stewards for Hawai‘i.
Gifts From the Reef
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.
A Resource at Risk
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.