Coral reef.
Maui Corals Healthy corals like these are a key component to a thriving reef ecosystem. © Alana Yurkanin

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TNC Publishes First of its Kind Coral Reef Atlas for West Maui

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has released the Atlas of the Reefs of West Maui, a comprehensive report compiling 20 years of data detailing changes in the abundance and diversity of marine life in West Maui. The first of its kind Atlas includes data collected by public and private organizations at 2,600 sites stretching from the Pali Tunnel on Honoapiʻilani Highway to Līpoa Point north of Honolua Bay.

“The intent for the Atlas is to help Federal, State and community partners strengthen coastal management in West Maui,” says Dr. Eric Conklin, Marine Science Director for TNC’s Hawaiʻi chapter. “While the Atlas has documented a concerning decline in the health and abundance of West Maui’s reefs and nearshore fisheries, it is already informing local efforts to manage and restore west Maui watersheds, Honolua Bay and an area stretching south from Kāʻanapali.”

A SCUBA diver underwater over a coral reef, writing on an underwater clipboard.
Reef Atlas A TNC diver surveys characteristics of West Maui reefs. © Ryan Carr/TNC

Communities in West Maui are collaborating with each other and the Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) to restore the coral reefs and fisheries that protect and provide their food, culture and livelihoods. The Atlas was designed to provide these communities and government partners with a shared understanding of how, when and where the reefs have changed so that they can develop targeted and effective strategies to reduce local pressures, increase reef resilience and restore reef fisheries. It is already helping local managers decide where and how to reduce threats to West Maui reefs, including the impacts of climate change such as warming ocean temperatures and rising seas.

“The Atlas provides a clear picture of the changes in West Maui’s reefs and fish populations,” explains Russell Sparks, a biologist with DAR. “Understanding these changes is helping us and our community partners develop effective management plans to restore these resources and achieve our shared goal of effectively protecting 30% of nearshore areas by 2030.”

Aerial view of reefs off the coast of Maui.
West Maui Reefs A bird’s-eye view of the reef Nā Papalimu O Pi‘ilani along West Maui’s Lāhaina coastline. © Maui Digital Images
Underwater photo of a school of yellow fish with black stripes.
Reef Fish Convict tags grazing at Black Rock, Maui. © Pauline Fiene
West Maui Reefs A bird’s-eye view of the reef Nā Papalimu O Pi‘ilani along West Maui’s Lāhaina coastline. © Maui Digital Images
Reef Fish Convict tags grazing at Black Rock, Maui. © Pauline Fiene

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries and territories: 38 by direct conservation impact and 34 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.