On November 5th, 60 guests boarded Trilogy I with excitement on their faces for our monthly Blue'Aina trip. The November Blue'Aina was sponsored by Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort and Villas who chose to make a donation to the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council (MNMRC). Food was provided by Aloha Mixed Plate/Old Lahaina Luau properties.
Our destination was Olowalu Reef, the “mother reef” of Maui and a perfect crystal clear snorkeling spot. This summer Olowalu Reef was named Hawaii’s first Hope Spot by the Sylvia Earl Alliance's Mission Blue. The reef is one thousand acres in size and is home to the oldest coral in the main Hawaiian Islands. Olowalu reef is a nursery for coral that populates Maui, Lanaʻi, and Molokaʻi. It was known as Puʻuhonua, or sanctuary, in Hawaiian history and was a place where people could take time to reflect. Like most reefs along the coast, Olowalu faces impacts from coastal development, runoff, and sedimentation. The area also faces natural threats; nearly 50% of Hawaii’s reef suffered bleaching in 2015 due to higher than average sea surface temperatures. Places that are deemed “critical to the health of the ocean” are being turned into Hope Spots around the world. This brings the areas to the forefront of the communities' attention with the hope it will increase their chances of being preserved. Dr. Sylvie Earl introduced the concept of Hope Spots in 2009 and started the non-profit Mission Blue. She describes Hope Spots as, “about recognizing, empowering and supporting individuals and communities around the world in their efforts to protect the ocean”.
As we approached the reef we heard from multiple representatives from the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council. MNMRC is a Maui-based nonprofit whose mission is to restore the health of Maui’s coral reef ecosystems. Through collaboration, education, and advocacy, they work to bring human actions into balance with ecological principles and, in doing so, ensure that our near-shore waters will be restored and sustained for future generations. The MNMRC was formed in 2007 and guided by Edwin Lindsey. It consists of a Board of Directors, staff members, and also volunteers. They have three main focuses: implementing the Maui Coral Reef Recovery Plan, sponsoring water quality monitoring, and sponsoring local community groups that support effective reef management.
Coral reefs in Maui have three main stressors; water quality, sea surface temperature, and sediment accumulation. Corals are living animals and they require clean and clear water to thrive. There are 24 monitoring sites along West Maui which the MNMRC tests once every three weeks. They will be expanding to South Maui soon, starting with 12 monitoring sites then increasing to 24. Water quality can be affected by natural and anthropogenic causes. Land-based sediment naturally gets washed downhill and into the ocean, where it settles on the reef blocking it from getting sunlight. As coastal development grows, this also increases the amount of sediment displaced. Fertilizers, pesticides and other pollutants get washed into the ocean when it rains which causes the coral to become stressed and potentially die.
At Olowalu Reef you can see the difference between natural sand and land-based sediment. When you pick up a handful of sand from the ocean floor, it will fall back down quickly, and land-based sediment will linger in the water column. It is important to keep native vegetation in coastal areas in order to absorb the sediment runoff. Invasive plants are not able to absorb sediment as well as natives. Minimizing development and keeping some green open spaces will further help to reduce sediment runoff into the ocean. To see results of some of their water quality testing and to learn more about how you can get involved head over to their website.
Throughout the day our guests munched on delicious food prepared by Aloha Mixed Plate/Old Lahaina Luau property. A delicious spread of homemade banana bread, fried rice with homemade spam, fruit platter, shoyu chicken, roasted vegetables and white rice. Our guests left with happy faces and full bellies. Aloha Mixed Plate/Old Lahaina Luau property is a continued supporter of Blue'Aina and our guests look forward to having them on the boat again. Thank you!
The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort and Villas is a continued corporate sponsor for Blue'Aina trips. The Westin stands on three pillars; culture, community, and sustainability. They believe that the well-being of our society and culture are inextricably tied to the health of our environment. The Westin is committed to taking care of all living things from the mountains to the sea by integrating environmental practices and sustainability principles into their business strategy. By working together, laulima, they aim to: conserve natural resources, minimize waste pollution, enhance indoor environmental quality, establish and report on key environmental performance indicators, and raise environmental awareness among their associates, guests, business partners, and communities. They have a strong, positive reputation in the Maui community and continually strive to an be an environmentally aware business. It was a pleasure to see their familiar faces onboard a Trilogy catamaran again. To find out more about their environmental practices check out their Green Initiatives webpage.