East Maui’s rugged and spectacular Hāna Coast is known for its people– home of famous ali‘i including Maui’s great chief Kahekili and Queen Ka‘ahumanu – and their connection to their heritage and natural resources. Indeed, the region is well known for its extensive and unique reefs, estuaries, loko i‘a (fish ponds) and tidal pools with culturally significant invertebrate species endemic to Hawai‘i.
Hāna’s rich marine life was once managed as part of the ahupua‘a, a political unit extending from the high mountains into the deep sea. Expertly cared for under traditional Hawaiian management systems, the sea sustained the people of Hāna for generations. Today, communities seek to re-invigorate ahupua‘a management and ensure a Hawaiian way of life, food security, and human well-being for present and future generations.
Because Hāna's coral reefs are exposed to the Northeast trade winds and swells, they are less protected from the elements than the more sheltered leeward reefs on the south and west shores of Maui.
At the same, Hāna’s remote, difficult-to-access location, its small rural population and rough weather have helped protect its reefs from the impacts of coastal development and runoff, pollution, boat groundings, marine debris, and invasive algae that affect reefs in more populated parts of Maui.
Instead, the primary cause of resource depletion is overfishing and unsustainable harvesting practices. Over the past 20 to 30 years, the community has observed declines in the abundance, size and diversity of its marine life.
Hāna is a place where community action is making a difference in restoring and protecting marine resources. Communities are motivated to address local threats by understanding the ecosystems and traditional practices and values, and working with each other to increase community participation.
The Nature Conservancy is assisting the community in that effort. Specifically, the Conservancy is working with Hāna communities to develop and implement conservation action plans and build capacity to care for and manage the surrounding resources. The Conservancy is monitoring resource health and supporting community-based resource monitoring. Through this collaboration, community members are leading the way in developing new monitoring techniques that are built on Hawaiian knowledge systems, and they are utilizing scientific resource monitoring in their local decision-making.
The Conservancy's community-based marine work on Maui is made possible through a cooperative agreement with NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program.
September 13, 2011