Mission Blue Coalition has named the Olowalu reef a “Hope Spot” to recognize and support CMMA’s (Olowalu Community Managed Makai Area) efforts to protect the nearly one thousand-acre coral reef.
The August 17 announcement coincided with the Polynesian Voyaging Society‘s Mahalo Hawai’i Sail to bring Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia home as a way to thank the people, share lessons learned from the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage, and deepen the organization’s connection and understanding of the important work being done here in the islands to care for the earth.
Supporters of Dr. Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue Coalition and the CMMA gathered aboard Hōkūle`a to announce the “Hope Spot” and reinforce the importance of being dedicated to Olowalu reef. Veteran waterman and Lahaina resident Archie Kalepa arrived aboard the voyaging canoe to greet the Olowalu community, saying we need to be stewards and protect what we have left.
“We are in a good place and at a good time,” Kalepa said. “We come home to find out how beautiful our place is, and to find the jewel in our own backyard–Olowalu. As soon as we arrived at Olowalu today, I wanted to jump off the canoe.”
Both the “Hope Spot” and Hokule`a events allow the community to shine the light on their work, according to Nainoa Thompson. “Olowalu is a place where community, culture, indigenous knowledge and science is coming together to take care of this reef, to find solutions for their place,” Thompson said. “This is the first of 42 ports that Hōkūle`a will visit, and if this is any indication of what all the other ports will look like, there is no place on earth that is moving at as rapid a pace to take care of their home than Hawaii.”
Olowalu CMMA was started by a small group of Olowalu residents, lineal descendants, and scientists out of their love of and connection to Olowalu reef, which is used by thousand of people each year for fishing, recreation and tourism.
After years of seeing the reef degrading, the group came together to unite the community to counter threats of shoreline loss and coastal hardening along the Honoapiilani Highway from Pali to Puamana; threats to the reef include sediment being washed into storm drains and out onto the reef from erosion and fires, and rising sea surface temperatures that are bleaching and killing corals.
Mission Blue, led by oceanographer Earle, is uniting a global coalition to inspire an upwelling of public awareness, access and support for a worldwide network of protected marine habitats known as “Hope Spots.” Under Earle’s leadership, the Mission Blue team implements communications campaigns that elevate “Hope Spots” to the world stage through documentaries, social media, traditional media and innovative tools like Google Earth.
In addition to CMMA’s goal to protect and restore the healthy coastal and marine ecosystems, the community group’s grass-roots efforts seek to perpetuate Hawaiian values of mālama ʻāina (to care for the land and sea) and kuleana (responsibility) by restoring a balance between people and nature.
“We invite the people of Olowalu and Maui to join us as we begin a process to create a plan of mauka to makai stewardship here in Olowalu, from, by and for the community,” said activist Tiare Lawrence. “Please reach out to me via Facebook.”
As for Mission Blue, the group also embarks on regular oceanic expeditions that shed light on these vital ecosystems and build support for their protection. Currently, the Mission Blue alliance includes more than 200 respected ocean conservation groups and like-minded organizations, from large multinational companies to dedicated community management.
“The Olowalu reef is Maui’s crown jewel,” said marine scientist Mark Deakos PhD. “[Olowalu is] home to the oldest living coral in the main Hawaiian Islands and the largest known manta ray population in US waters. The Olowalu reef sustains a huge diversity of rare and unique coral species and acts as a nursery to replenish and populate the reefs of west Maui, Molokai and Lanai.”
Photo courtesy Olowalu Community Managed Makai Area