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Feb 20, 2020

Bikers Become Unexpected Allies in Protecting Reef

If you walk along a certain dirt road in the Wahikuli watershed in West Maui, you will see a large sign made by the Coral Reef Alliance asking motorcyclists for their kokua (help) in avoiding this road and taking an alternative road nearby instead.

What does this road a mile from the shoreline have to do with coral reefs? And how can bikers help?

In West Maui, water pollution from old dirt roads has led to a decline of coral cover from 30 to just 10 percent in the last fifteen years. Stormwater runoff also regularly causes the Hawaii Department of Health to issue “Brown Water Advisories”, which are warnings to the public to avoid swimming or fishing because of risks to human health. Beach closures negatively impact Hawaii’s natural and cultural heritage, as well as the tourism industry.

When it rains, sediment washes down dirt roads into streams and get dumped on coral reefs.

CORAL, our partners, and volunteers from the community are working to address this threat by planting native plants and deep-rooted grasses along dirt roads that run adjacent to streams. Bringing back native vegetation helps trap sediments and stabilize the soil, while also improving habitat for native plants and animals and creating opportunities for local communities to reconnect with the land.

Every month CORAL hosts a Watershed Restoration Day, where a team of volunteers plants native seedlings across abandoned dirt roads. So far, over 200 volunteers have planted approximately 8,000 plants, which are effectively reducing sediment pollution across West Maui.

CORAL staff and volunteers plant rows of native vegetation on old dirt roads

Motorcyclists recreationally traveling along these roads were unknowingly running over our seedlings and sediment traps, rendering them ineffective. When CORAL staff realized this, we decided to create an educational poster asking bikers for their collaboration.

The signs explain the connection between these plants and coral reefs and respectfully asks bikers to take an alternative road. The bikers are listening. Since the signs were installed, we no longer find our plants being damaged by biker wheels. We can all do our small part to help, and CORAL is excited to engage this new and unexpected ally in protecting Maui’s coral reefs!

CORAL’s dedicated volunteers install signs asking motorcyclists for their help.

Dec 18, 2019

Raising Chickens and Bees to Save Coral Reefs

Coral reefs provide an important source of food and income for coastal and island communities around the world. But more than 55 percent of reefs are threatened by overfishing globally.

Overfishing not only disrupts the delicate ecology of coral reefs, it also negatively impacts the local communities that depend on them. If fishers are unable to catch enough fish, they may struggle to make a living or feed their families.

A fisherman in Micos Lagoon

Small-scale fisher in Micos Lagoon, Honduras.

That’s where bees and chickens come in.

Entrepreneurial “income diversification” projects, like raising egg-laying chickens or keeping honeybees, offer new ways for fishers and their families to earn money. When communities have the skills and resources to generate income in new ways, they don’t need to overfish. The result is a win-win solution, in which people are no longer over-reliant on a single resource, while depleted fish stocks and coral reef ecosystems get the chance to recover and thrive.

As part of our Healthy Fisheries for Reefs initiative, CORAL collaborates with local communities to develop tailored, locally appropriate income diversification projects. Some such examples include our egg-laying chicken project in coastal Honduras and our beekeeping project in Waivunia, Fiji. We help build the capacity of local people to learn skills like how to run an artisan shop or become a tour guide operator — always taking into consideration communities’ preferences and interests and the availability of materials for start-up and maintenance.

Newly-trained beekeepers suit up in Waivunia, Fiji.

One of our greatest success stories comes from the Micos Lagoon on the north coast of Honduras. With its natural beauty and high biodiversity, the lagoon is the ecological, social, and economic heart of Blanca Jeannette Kawas National Park. It serves as a nursery habitat where juvenile reef fish spend their lives before populating Tela Bay’s coral reefs. Unfortunately, water pollution, overfishing, and unsustainable fishing practices (like using fishing nets with illegal mesh sizes) have caused overexploitation of the lagoon. In July 2017, Micos lagoon experienced a number of hypoxic events that devastated the food chain, leaving more than 500 fishers and their families without their usual income.

Shortly thereafter, CORAL began work with the fishing community of Los Cerritos to create an egg-laying hen project. We partnered with a cooperative of 12 women who are either fishers themselves or married to fishers, and gave them a microgrant for the purchase of 120 egg-laying hens. After a year of construction, learning, and trial and error, the hens are now providing an alternative source of protein for the community and helping them adapt to new fishing regulations and changing environmental conditions (e.g. hypoxic events) in the lagoon.

An alternative livelihood project in Honduras helps save coral reefs

Women from the Los Cerritos women’s co-op proudly handle their new hens.

Income diversification activities like this one not only reduce fishing pressure but also engender goodwill and increase compliance with local fishing regulations. Together with scientific monitoring, enforcement patrols, sustainable policies, and education, they are a highly valuable conservation strategy for people and reefs.

Oct 16, 2019

Hawaii Wai Ola Citizen Science Program Launches

"A`ohe hua o ka mai`a i ka la ho’okaahi — When a task is done together, no task is too big.”

University of Hawaii Hilo students and alumni test water quality in Puako, Hawaii for the Department of Health

University of Hawaii – Hilo (UHH) students and alumni test water quality in Puako, Hawaii for the Department of Health


The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) and partners are excited to announce the launch of the Hawaii Wai Ola citizen science program. Hawaii Wai Ola is a collaborative group (called a Hui in Hawaiian) comprised of ten organizations, which aims to improve Hawaii Island’s coastal water quality through science, communication and collaboration to accelerate positive change. Hawaii Wai Ola’s diverse set of members includes:

  • Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL)
  • Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR)
  • Kahalu’u Bay Education Center
  • Natural Energy Lab of Hawaii Authority (NELHA)
  • South Kohala Coastal Partnership
  • Surfrider Foundation
  • The Kohala Center- Kahalu’u Bay Education Center
  • The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
  • University of Hawaii Hilo (UHH) Analytical Lab
  • Waiwai Ola – Water Keepers Alliance

Hawaii Wai Ola is harnessing the power of citizen science to provide a more comprehensive and timely understanding of Hawaii’s water quality, and thus, quality of life.

Citizen science groups are becoming increasingly prevalent across Hawaii, as government and community groups recognize their many benefits. Citizen scientists provide a cost-effective solution for increasing the amount of high-quality rigorous data that researchers are able to collect. Citizen science also increases public awareness and empowers people to make a difference for their island community.

Water quality testing in Puako, Hawaii

Researchers collect samples to test water quality.

CORAL has been proudly leading its own citizen science program on Hawaii Island. In 2017, CORAL began training citizen scientists in Puako to conduct monthly water quality sampling of six sites along the South Kohala shore, as part of a broader plan to monitor the Puako reef before, during, and after the transition away from cesspools to cleaner alternatives (learn more about our Clean Water for Reefs Puako project here). Our citizen science group collects data on metrics like temperature, bacteria (e.g. Enterococcus) and nutrients; information which is critical to understanding ocean health for the benefit of Hawaii’s residents, visitors and ecosystems.

Now, thanks to the establishment of the Hawaii Wai Ola, much-needed water quality monitoring is now expanding across Hawaii Island. Data collected will be provided to the Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH), filling critical gaps in their database. Data will also be made publicly available on the Hawaii Wai Ola website, which we encourage you to explore.

If you’re based in Hawaii, please consider joining the new citizen science team on Hawaii Island or our monthly volunteer program in Maui!

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