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

Stories in Hawaii

Leading with Science to Improve Conservation

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. Working in partnership with academic peers, resource managers, community groups, and fishers, we monitor coral reefs and reef fish populations and undertake research to assess: 

  • The impacts of land-based pollutants and sediment on coral reefs and water quality
  • The impacts of harvest and recreational use of marine resources
  • The movement and natural replenishment patterns of 'opihi
  • The feasibility, cost, and effectiveness of removing non-native species
  • The extent, severity, and potential to recover from coral bleaching caused by warming seas 
  • The potential role deep water reefs may play as refuges

These activities help State agencies and community groups understand the health of reefs and nearshore fisheries and measure the impacts of management actions so they can be adapted, as necessary, to enhance recovery. 

Our fish surveys also help to expand the University of Hawai'i Fisheries Ecology Research Lab’s statewide database, allowing community, university, and government partners to compare the health of nearshore fisheries at more than 40 sites across the state, and contributed to the largest study of its kind, helping to reveal how overfishing is jeopardizing nearshore reefs. Listen to an interview to find out what else the study revealed.

TNC teams 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 activities.  

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.