Aerial view of reef at Puakō, Hawaii.
Reef at Puakō Hawaiʻi’s reefs provide coastal flood protection valued at more than $836 million a year. © C. Wiggins

Stories in Hawai'i

Protecting and Restoring Hawaiʻi’s Reefs

Hawaiʻi’s once fertile and well-managed reefs and fisheries helped sustain a self-sufficient Hawaiian population for a thousand years.

Today, the living reefs along Hawaiʻi’s shores continue to provide important habitat for reef fish; protect us from storms and rising sea levels; and support Hawaiʻi’s cultural traditions, island lifestyle and economy. In fact, each year, Hawaiʻi’s reefs support nearshore fisheries worth $13.4 million and reef-related tourism contributing more than $1.2 billion to the state’s economy. They also provide flood protection benefits to people, property and jobs valued at more than $836 million annually.

But the pressures of an increasing population and nearly 10 million visitors a year have strained our reefs and fisheries. Impacts from overfishing, land-based pollution and invasive species have already contributed to a 60% decline in living coral reefs in some areas in the last 40 years, and a more than 90% decline in some commercially important reef fish populations over the past century.

Fortunately, like other living things, Hawaiʻi’s reefs and fisheries can recover if the damage is not too severe and we take strong local action to minimize threats. That’s why:

  • Our scientists assess coral health and reef fish populations and research the causes of their declines to inform management. The data we collect help community and government partners take appropriate action to improve reef health and inform adaptive management. Learn more about our science.
  • We share new tools and strategies to enhance the health, management, resilience and sustainability of coral reefs and reef fisheries. Drawing from TNC’s vast global network, we are able to share innovative solutions to address Hawai'i’s most urgent conservation challenges and work with partners to adapt and apply them. Read the latest about reef insurance, coral restoration and FishPath.
  • We work with government agencies, community groups and other organizations to restore coastal habitat. These efforts blend traditional practices and local expertise with the latest tools and science to demonstrate effective management and illustrate how healthy reefs, fishponds and wetlands enhance coastal protection. See how your support is helping to transform coastal and marine life across the islands.
  • Our teams promote peer learning and nurture promising young professionals to strengthen local leadership. While peer learning networks accelerate the exchange of knowledge among natural resource managers, our fellowships and internships help the next generation acquire the skills, experience and confidence to guide marine conservation in the decades to come. See how the networks and fellows are advancing conservation.

Your support makes all of this possible. Thank you for choosing to invest—in us, in strengthening local leadership, in vital science and restoration, and, most importantly, in creating a healthy and sustainable island home.

Past Webinar

The Communities: Working Together to Protect our Reefs into the Future

Please join us to hear from Rebecca Most, TNC’s Hawai‘i Island Marine Program Manager, and our partners from the State of Hawai‘i Division of Aquatic Resources, Brian Neilson and Luna Kekoa, for a conversation on working with communities to achieve the State’s Marine 30x30 Initiative to effectively manage Hawai‘i’s nearshore waters with 30% established as marine management areas by 2030.

The Communities (1:00:35) Working Together to Protect our Reefs into the Future
Headshots of Rebecca Most, Brian Neilson, and Luna Kekoa.
The Communities Rebecca Most (left) is TNC’s Hawai‘i Island Marine Program Manager, Brian Neilson is Administrator for the State Of Hawai‘i Division of Aquatic Resources, and Luna Kekoa is Community-Based Fishing Area Planner for the State Of Hawai‘i Division of Aquatic Resources. © Christine Shepard (left) and State of Hawai‘i Division of Aquatic Resources (middle and right)