Thanks to you, our members and supporters, The Nature Conservancy of Hawaiʻi was able to make great conservation happen in 2016.
Taking the Helm
In 2016, the Conservancy welcomed Ulalia Woodside as its new Hawaiʻi executive director. The former director of natural and cultural resources at Kamehameha Schools, Woodside has served on the State Board of Land and Natural Resources and is a past commissioner of the Hawai‘i Natural Area Reserve System. She succeeded Suzanne Case and is only the fourth executive director in the Hawaiʻi program’s 36-year history.
At the Conservancy’s Mo‘omomi Beach Preserve on Moloka‘i, construction was completed on a new deer and predator-proof fence. The new fence will protect 187 acres of some of the state’s best remaining native coastal vegetation, including numerous rare plant populations and nesting sites for wedge-tailed shearwaters and sea turtles.
Since 1999, when three wedge-tailed shearwater nests were discovered at Mo‘omomi, their numbers have continued to grow, with 1,328 active nests recorded in 2016. The remarkable comeback is due to the Conservancy’s weed and predator control efforts, which have created a hospitable refuge where the birds can safely nest and rear their young.
Feeling the Heat
Following the first statewide bleaching event in 2015, Conservancy scientists partnered with NOAA and the Marine Applied Research Center to conduct Hawai‘i's first-ever reef resilience assessments in West Hawai‘i. The surveys identified which coral reefs are best able to resist or recover from bleaching so managers can invest in areas that can withstand warming seas.
Containing Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death
With 55,000 acres of ‘ōhi‘a forest on Hawai‘i Island dying from a deadly new fungus called “Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death,” the Conservancy worked with state and federal agencies on emergency public awareness efforts to prevent the disease from spreading further on Hawai‘i Island or to other islands, including signage at airports and trailheads, social media and website content, exhibit materials, strategic planning, a 30-second television PSA and extensive outreach to the thousands of Merrie Monarch Festival attendees in Hilo.
Meet our New Marine Fellows
The Conservancy welcomed three new fellows into the fifth cohort of its Marine Fellowship Program: O‘ahu’s Bert Weeks, Maui’s Kanoelani Steward and Nakoa Goo from Hawai‘i Island. The program’s mission is to build marine conservation leaders in Hawai‘i through hands-on learning experiences. Of the 10 fellows who have graduated from the program since its inception in 2008, nine are now working professionally in conservation or related fields.
Coral Reef Summit
The Nature Conservancy played a prominent role at the 2016 International Coral Reef Symposium, held in Honolulu in June. This preeminent global marine gathering brought together more than 2,500 coral reef scientists and managers. The Conservancy’s coral reef efforts were highlighted in 75 presentations, posters and panel discussions, 15 of which featured the Conservancy’s work in Hawaiʻi.
Back from the Brink
Success stories are hard to find in the world of endangered species, but in 2016 the Conservancy helped bring an imperiled plant back from the brink. Cyanea procera, or the Moloka‘i Cyanea, was down to a single surviving individual. But through a partnership with the State’s Plant Extinction Prevention Program, more than 510 seedlings are now flourishing in the Conservancy’s Kamakou Preserve.
Using leading-edge technologies, the Conservancy removed all destructive pigs from more than 6,000 acres in our Waikamoi Preserve on Maui and our Wainiha Preserve on Kauaʻi. On Kaua‘i, one of our newest innovations uses microwave communications technology that enables our staff to monitor and close the gate on a pig trap from our office in Līhuʻe, 15 miles away from the trap site. These new innovations are improving watershed management throughout the state and beyond.
The Nature Conservancy was well represented when the World Conservation Congress convened in Honolulu in September. The world's largest environmental summit attracted 10,000 participants from 192 countries. Serving as panelists, speakers and trainers, the Conservancy’s Hawai‘i staff and their global colleagues lent expertise to more than 50 sessions, offering scientific tools, scientific discoveries and technical training.
In 2011, The Nature Conservancy partnered with Pono Pacific and the community group Mālama Maunalua to remove 3 million pounds of non-native algae from east Honolulu’s Maunalua Bay. Building on that success in 2012, we began working alongside the State Division of Aquatic Resources to remove invasive algae from windward O‘ahu’s Kāne‘ohe Bay. Today, the mudweed algae that once choked the reef flat in Manaulua Bay has stabilized at less than 10%, or a third of its original cover, while native algae have rapidly recolonized the area. The news is even better in Kāne‘ohe, where the invasive algae has plummeted to less than 1% across the bay.
What's In Our Water?
On Maui, the Conservancy led a multi-agency collaboration that launched Hui O Ka Wai Ola, the first-ever community-based coastal water quality monitoring effort. The information compiled by its citizen scientists will fill critical data gaps to inform State managers on where best to target limited resources to clean up coastal waters.
The popular local slogan, “Try Wait,” proved to be a convincing theme for the community of Ka‘ūpūlehu in West Hawai‘i, which in 2016 received State approval to create a 10-year marine reserve to reverse the decline of their once-abundant fishery. For the people of Ka‘ūpūlehu, the State’s decision marked a turning point in their 17-year effort to protect their marine resources. The Nature Conservancy, which provided Ka‘ūpūlehu with scientific support and other assistance, applauded the decision, as did the growing number of advocates for community-based marine conservation in Hawai‘i.