Many of the greatest threats to the reefs come from land-based sources of pollution, including sediment, nutrients, cesspools, sewer treatment plant overflow, and road run-off. Excess nutrients promote the growth of algae that compete for space on the benthic reef surfaces and affect the ability of coral to establish and grow. Another threat to the health of reefs is grounded vessels.
Climate change impacts on coral include effects from ocean warming, coral bleaching, and ocean acidification. Coral bleaching is becoming more frequent as the oceans warm, with predictions that by 2050 many of the reefs of the Pacific will bleach annually. Increased acidification of the ocean is caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide absorbed by sea water. With ocean acidification, less carbonate is available for coral reefs to build their calcium carbonate skeletons, causing coral loss. Coral cover throughout the Pacific is expected to decline 15% to 35% by 2035.
Benchmark - Where we are now
  • The Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources (DLNR-DAR) finalized the Hawai‘i Coral Reef Strategy: 2010-2020 (2010) and has begun implementing place-based management in two selected priority sites: in South Kohala on the Island of Hawai‘i, utilizing The South Kohala Conservation Action Plan (2012) that was developed by local experts and stakeholders to address impacts to coastal resources; and on the Island of Maui, using both the West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative to begin watershed planning in 2012 and the Kahekili Conservation Action Plan (2013).
  • DLNR-DAR, with support from partners, is developing and expanding community-based stewardship and co-management efforts.
  • The Department of Transportation (DOT)-Harbors Division is working with federal agencies to improve and streamline mitigation efforts for planned impacts, such as harbor improvements, necessary for the state’s economy.
Target - Where we would like to be
  • As pilot projects are implemented, they are evaluated so that the most effective ones can be applied, as appropriate, in additional areas.
  • Education is a key strategy to address coral threats as residents and visitors are aware of the significance of the coral reefs and how easily they can be damaged.
  • An effective day use mooring program is in place, which reduces boating impacts to reef ecosystems, improves public access to resources, and helps to reduce user conflicts.

Increase in number of projects or Best Management Practices (BMP's) implemented and evaluated at priority coral reef sites

Two sites, West Maui (Ka‘anapali-Kahekili) and South Kohala (Pelekane Bay-Puako-Anaeho‘omalu Bay) were prioritized for a 3-5 year program focus in order to implement specific ridge-to-reef management activities.

For more information on DAR's Priority Coral Reef sites, please visit the Priority Sites Webpage.

Agency: Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Aquatic Resources

Images: (Above) Getty Images, (Below) DLNR-DAR-South Kohala, DLNR-DAR-West Maui

South Kohala:
The State’s Hawaiʻi Coral Reef Strategy identifies coral reef ecosystems along the South Kohala district coastline as a priority management site. The South Kohala Conservation Action Plan (CAP) identifies the priority threats, conservation targets and strategies. The CAP is the guiding document for the partnership. The area of focus includes the marine and coastal habitats along 24 – miles from the north boundary of Kawaihae ahupua‘a to the south end of Anaeho‘omalu Bay. Projects include mauka (mountain) to makai (ocean) management strategies to help reduce the priority threats.
Projects and BMP's implemented and evaluated within the South Kohala Priority Area include:
Stream corridor assessment, Ungulate exclusion and sediment reduction, Understanding the impacts of land based nutrients on coral reef health, Assessment of coral settlement distributions and environmental conditions, Integrating local ecological knowledge with a novel scientific tool to refine traditional community based moon calendars, and Implementation of the South Kohala Conservation Action Plan.
West Maui:
The West Maui Ridge to Reef (R2R) Initiative is an all- encompassing approach across multiple agencies and organizations to address adverse impacts to coral reefs in West Maui. The State recognized that an integrated and comprehensive approach to reduce land-based sources of pollution is one of the most important steps to help restore coral reef ecosystems. The R2R Initiative builds on already established efforts underway and leverages resources across a number of agencies and community groups to implement actions to reduce one of the key sources of reef decline – land-based sources of pollution.
Projects and BMP's implemented and evaluated within the West Maui Priority Area include: the Wahikuli-Honokowai Watershed Management Plan, the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area, Installing curb inlet baskets to reduce pollution, Rain garden design, installation, and signage at Pohaku Beach Park, the Reef Friendly Landscape Management Plan, West Maui Wildfire Mitigation Planning, Constructed wetland analysis and design, Sediment Retention at Honokōwai Dam, and the Wahikuli-Honokōwai Agricultural Road Drainage Improvement Project.
Implementation of BMP's at Priority Coral Reef Sites 

Title Image: NOAA Fisheries