On the north shore of Kauai, just north of the well known Hanalei Bay, is an idylic stretch of coastline known as “Makua.” Makua, a Hawaiian word for provider, may refer in this case to the important resources that came from this once vibrant reef ecosystem and helped provide for the needs of people living in the region for many generations. The reef continues to be used by the local community and visitors to Kauai for subsistance fishing, gathering of “wana” or sea urchin, cultural practices, snorkeling, surfing, and swimming.
But today the reef’s ability to continue to sustainably provide is being challenged. Fish numbers are declining, and a coral disease has recently been documented in the region. To help inform possible solutions, CORAL is teaming up with the Hanalei Watershed Hui (HWH) to gather data on water quality that might yield clues as to the causes of these symptoms.
“Despite the importance of the area, very little has been done to examine the water quality of Makua,”says Makaala Kaaumoana, Executive Director of HWH. She and her team will be working with CORAL and local volunteers over the next year to conduct periodic sampling and to analyze data from several sites along the Makua coastline. “The data will be collected by trained area residents, analyzed, and shared with the community as well as government agencies and scientists, so it really is a grassroots, community-led endeavor,” says Makaala.
Says CORAL’s Hawai‘i Field Manager Wes Crile (profiled here), “Once we know what the causes of the declines are, we’ll know where to direct our efforts.” He adds that the Hanalei Watershed Hui is a perfect match and a strong partner for CORAL. “Both CORAL and HWH have at their core the principle of working with communities to solve these complex problems, and HWH has very close ties with the local people.”
The reef at Makua has provided for people for so long it is only fitting that people now do something to help the reef, says Wes. He hopes this program will be the first step in that direction.
Read more about CORAL’s water quality work in Hawai‘i here.