It was a busy morning on May 3rd in Lahaina! We had a boat filled to the brim with 58 wonderful volunteers passionate about ocean and island conservation, and ready for a day of fun out on the water. The volunteers took care of a harbor clean up bright and early before we boarded, making sure to stop marine debris before it even gets a chance to enter the water. On our quick cruise over to Mala Wharf, we got an introduction to each other, a safety briefing from Captain Jason, and a tasty energy boost from hot mugs of coffee and Mama Coon’s famous cinnamon rolls.
It was an ideal day to do our underwater reef clean up at Mala Wharf - good visibility, not too much swell, and we had lots of watermen and women on board ready to do some free-diving in search of fishing line wrapped around the reef, old cans and bottles, and other human refuse that has made its way into our coral reefs. Katie gave us all some good pointers on how to make sure to leave the reef cleaner and healthier than we found it and how to safely remove fishing line from coral heads. Once everyone was geared up, the “pool” was open and we had our ocean stewards doing their kuleana. Snorkelers made sure to enjoy the clear water, interesting structure of Mala Wharf, and kept their eyes peeled for marine life- some white tip reef sharks were spotted as well as Hawaiian green sea turtles.
Our volunteers had a great haul- lots of old looking monofilament, fishing lures and even a car battery were removed from the ocean!
Once everyone was back on board, we were ready to enjoy a lunch donated by Trilogy of wraps, pasta salad, fresh fruit salad, chips and salsa and chocolate chip cookies. As we fueled up we got a chance to learn more about Leeward Haleakala Watershed Restoration Partnership from Andrea Buckman, and about the Maui Huliau Foundation from Malia Cahill. Hawaiian Paddle Sports told us about the water adventures they offer and what motivates them to be an environmentally responsible business. Volunteers from NOAA had measured water chemistry, and so that was recorded along with data from our manta trawl. We take a plankton sample every Blue'Aina trip to measure the amount of microplastics masquerading as plankton, in collaboration with Algalita Marine Lab in Long Beach, CA.
This plankton sample found an unexpected catch- a juvenile cowfish! After acting as photo model, he was released back in the water column where he was found.
Many thanks to Katie, who is concentrating on captaining with Trilogy after next Blue'Aina trip. E komo mai to our new Conservation and Education Director, Kelly Montenero, who will be coordinating Blue'Aina in the future. She comes to us with a Masters of Science in Marine Affairs and Policy, much boating experience and a passion for enjoying and conserving our ocean playground here in Hawaii!