Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area to Host Sister Event to the Smithsonian Institution’s Earth Optimism Summit – All invited to talk story and swim for science on Earth Day

KAʻANAPALI, MAUI – The Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area to Host Sister Event to the Smithsonian Institution’s Earth Optimism Summit – All invited to talk story and swim for science on Earth Day

On the afternoon of Earth Day 2017 (April 22nd), all are invited to meet at Kahekili Beach Park (Old Airport Beach) in North Kāʻanapali at 1:00 pm to join members of the community, resource managers, scientists, and conservationists to talk story, learn more about one another, and discuss areas of environmental concerns and conservation successes in our community and globally.

While there are many environmental concerns in our world today, there is also cause for celebration of conservation efforts that have resulted in success. That is the idea behind the Earth Optimism Summit, a global initiative spearheaded by the Smithsonian Institution that “celebrates a change in focus from problem to solution, from a sense of loss to one of hope, in the dialogue about conservation and sustainability,” according to the event website.

Locally on Maui, those who have supported, managed and enforced the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area (KHFMA) for over seven years now have reason to celebrate, as this unique Marine Managed Area is showing signs of success. However, reef recovery is a long process that requires sustained action and support from the community. Stewards of this area are coming together to host a community event with an overarching theme of positivity and community engagement, and it has received the distinction of becoming an official ‘sister event’ to the Earth Optimism Summit.

Event organizers agree that the story of the KHFMA is inspirational in many ways, particularly because “it’s an example of a marine managed area that didn’t need to be ‘closed down’ to result in early improvements such as more and bigger fishes,” according to Liz Foote, one of the event’s organizers. She continues, “it still has a long road ahead, but the more people who follow the rules and share them with others–along with the message of why this area is special–the better a chance it has to recover and benefit the surrounding areas and the people who want to visit and harvest from them.”

The event will kick off with a gathering focused on Earth Optimism, followed by the opportunity to Swim for Science as an ocean-themed extension of the March for Science (the official March for Science on Maui will be taking place from 9-11 am at the University of Hawaii Maui College in Kahului). Dr. Emily Kelly and her colleagues from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego have been studying the reef at Kahekili for over a decade. Together they conceived of the idea of an ‘underwater’ march in conjunction with the Earth Optimism Summit; as Dr. Kelly notes, “we value science to learn about our world and inform policy. However, we don’t always have the opportunity to share the scientific results we have been gathering all these years directly with the community. Therefore we swim in support of science and the Earth Optimism we have as a result of seeing improved ecosystem health at Kahekili.” 

Participants will have the chance to learn about the Eyes of the Reef Reporting Network, a statewide citizen science effort that anyone can do. According to Darla White of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Aquatic Resources and an Eyes of the Reef program coordinator, “as we celebrate the value of science in understanding our world, don't forget that your contribution is so important. Maui Nui's coral reefs are some of the most valuable reefs in the Main Hawaiian Islands and they are all connected. However, many are stressed by land-based pollution, overfishing, and warming oceans. Therefore, it is more important than ever to keep your eyes open for changes (e.g. white coral; increases in algae) and report them to the Eyes of the Reef Network. Your reports matter!”

Finally, Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement (DOCARE) officers will also be in attendance to host a walk-and-talk-story with participants to share enforcement perspectives of the KHFMA. They will have fishing-related giveaways to share along with refreshments provided by the organizers. Edward “Luna” Kekoa, DOCARE’s Statewide Makai Watch Coordinator, underscores the importance of this opportunity for community to come together during this event: “we believe in collaboration and partnerships but lack the relationships with one another, therefore, we talk story." To accomplish this, in addition to walking the beach with enforcement officers, an informal panel discussion will be held, entitled “A Fisherman, a Scientist, a Manager, and an Enforcement Officer walk into a beach park.”

Event organizers invite everyone to come join together for Earth Day and share their Earth Optimism for the successful management of reefs at Kahekili and beyond for future generations. For more about this event, please contact Emily Kelly at (919) 949-7399 or and visit the Facebook page for the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area.

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