Abused for centuries by human activity—including deforestation, over-grazing and military testing—Kaho‘olawe is Maui Nui’s dirty secret. More secret still is the presence of an estimated 20 tons of garbage at Kanapou Bay on the island’s east side. The trash, brought in by trade winds and currents, is choking reefs and threatening endangered birds and marine animals.
“When you see the scope of the problem it is hard to know where to start,” said Michele McLean, deputy director of the Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC). KIRC spearheads annual cleanup efforts but, McLean said, it’s “simply not enough to clean the entire beach, so we have not been able to keep up with re-accumulation.”
That could change, thanks to a $100,000 allotment from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which, coupled with KIRC’s volunteer force, might finally get on top of the problem. The first cleanup is set for September 25, with the project expected to take about 18 months.
“Through careful and cooperative stewardship—traditional Hawaiian values of resource care and management, or malama, blended with contemporary marine science—Kaho‘olawe can become a living conduit between past and future generations,” said KIRC Executive Director Michael Naho‘opi. Considering what’s been done to the island, that’s an ambitious goal. But, long odds aside, it’s never too late to try to set things right. (For more information, call 243-5020 or visit kahoolawe.hawaii.gov.)