Coral bleaching survey, West Hawai'i Island
Coral bleaching survey West Hawai'i Island © David Slater

Stories in Hawaii

Leading with Science to Inform Management

Increased understanding of our dynamic oceans and coastlines is vital to restoring Hawai'i’s once thriving reefs and fisheries.

TNC scientists are building that understanding and helping design effective management actions to address local threats. Working in partnership with academic researchers, resource managers, community groups, and fishers, we monitor coral reefs and reef fish populations and undertake research to assess: 

  • The extent and severity of coral bleaching, and the potential for reefs to resist or recover from climate change impacts
  • The impacts of land-based pollutants and sediment on coral reefs and water quality
  • The impacts of harvest and recreational use of marine resources
  • Population changes and natural replenishment patterns of 'opihi
  • The impacts of non-native species and the feasibility, cost, and effectiveness of removing them
  • The potential role deep water reefs may play as refuges for nearshore coral reefs and reef fish
  • The design and efficacy of management actions to reduce threats and restore ecosystem health

This information helps State agencies and community groups understand changes in the health of reefs and nearshore fisheries over time, develop management actions to enhance recovery, and measure the effectiveness of those management actions. 

Our fish surveys also expand the statewide fish database compiled by the University of Hawai'i Fisheries Ecology Research Lab and managed by Hawai'i's Division of Aquatic Resources, allowing community, university, and government partners to compare the health of nearshore fisheries at more than 50 sites across the state, and helped assess how overfishing is jeopardizing Hawai'i's reefs. Listen to an interview to find out what else the study revealed.

TNC scientists also train community volunteers in the use of scientific monitoring protocols. The citizen scientists then put their newly acquired skills to use monitoring water quality and fish populations in their communities. The information they compile helps community groups and State agencies fill critical data gaps and develop and assess management strategies.  

Together, we are improving our understanding and ability to manage Hawai'i’s reefs and fisheries so they can support healthy prosperous communities long into the future.

See how this science informs restoration and management.