The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) is honored to join the Maui Nui Makai Network—a network of community groups from across Maui Nui that protect and care for marine and coastal ecosystems.
The network was established in 2013 when community organizations decided they would be stronger working together than separately. Network members meet regularly to learn from and support each other in efforts to protect and restore ocean ecosystems.
CORAL’s role within the network will be to provide technical expertise and help implement projects, and CORAL’s Regional Program Director for the Main Hawaiian Islands, Manuel Mejia, will oversee this partnership.
The invitation is an incredible honor and a testament to CORAL’s—and Mejia’s—history of building collaborative programs to save coral reefs in the region.
“It’s very validating that the network sees CORAL can add value,” shares Mejia. “They spent a lot of time on their governance documents and fine-tuned their procedures in order to vet members. All seven community groups examine and vote for prospective members. They need to see the value and the synergy, and you have to be very present in the years leading up to your invitation to join.”
Mejia has participated in the network before. He served as a technical advisor through his previous role with The Nature Conservancy. In an official letter inviting CORAL to join, Network Chair Claudia Kalaola wrote to Mejia, “Network leadership all agree your expertise and collaboration over the years is an alliance we want to continue! Leadership also recognizes CORAL can provide many new opportunities for the network, and we hope you can accept our invitation.”
Mejia’s excited to continue working with the network through CORAL, and finds a lot of synergy between his approach to conservation and that of the network.
“Things are so siloed in conservation between ecology, conservation science, etc., but my approach has always been biocultural,” he describes. “You can’t take humans out of the equation, especially in Hawai‘i and the Pacific where they are part of the same equation; you can’t consider one without the other.”
He also sees CORAL’s collaborative and partnership-based approach as a natural fit, and views this partnership as a win-win for coral reefs.
“We will be able to learn so much from each other,” says Mejia. “I’m excited to learn from their experiences working with local communities, and share our lessons learned about how to effectively reduce local threats to reefs. Together, we can reduce local stressors to help coral reefs adapt to climate change, so both our oceans and our communities can survive and thrive well into the future.”