Inspiration Collaboration Story:

Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area

The KHFMA is a success story of multi-agency partnerships and community engagement, and has influenced people working together to save a reef from a watershed perspective, mauka to makai. In the water, partners include: Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), Hawaii Coral Reef Initiative, University of Hawaii, NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, Coral Reef Alliance, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, US Geological Survey, and the many volunteer citizen scientists from the Maui community.

On the island of Maui, fisheries management efforts have been implemented with the purpose to increase the resilience of a reef area experiencing a decline. In the mid 2000's when evaluating coral reef monitoring data DAR identified some alarming long-term trends in reef degradation along the west coast of Maui. At the time, the reefs in the area of north Ka‘anapali had declined by nearly 50% in live coral cover, and there were regular algae blooms that were further stressing the living corals. Additional data indicated that herbivore fish stocks were overfished, and the primary invasive algal species were preferred edibles for fish. This evidence spurred an education and outreach campaign that ultimately lead to the designation of the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area (KHFMA) in July 2009.

The monitoring data collected by researchers has provided some early evidence that this ecosystem may be positively responding. In addition to the biological evidence of improved reef resiliency, there appears to be a very tangible increase in public awareness and in the willingness of fishers to endorse herbivore management efforts. A collaborative partnership between DAR and the Coral Reef Alliance further developed this public awareness through the establishment of the Ka‘anapali Makai Watch Program. Volunteer citizen scientists have worked to increase the overall understanding of the grazing pressure of the many herbivorous fish species (fish that eat limu/algae), which is important to understand how effectively fishes provide the ecological services of keeping the delicate balance between coral and algal growth.

The monitoring data coupled with the innovative management efforts taking place within the KHFMA have resulted in national recognition and the designation of West Maui's Watersheds as the priority Pacific watershed by the US Coral Reef Task Force. This designation has begun to direct research and coordinated management efforts on the watersheds in the area.

Ocean Science Topics Covered

Biodiversity Coral Reef Ecology Field research Fishes Fisheries Science Education Land Based Pollution

Frequency: once a week, once a month, a couple of times, once
Duration: several years, a year, a semester, a month, a week, a day
Age Groups: Kindergarden, Elementary, Middleschool, Highschool, Adult, Senior
Group Sizes: Community (40+)
Languages: English