Short videos orient visitors how to respectfully engage with coral reef ecosystems before they visit
KAHALU‘U BAY, HAWAI‘I ISLAND, HAWAI‘I (September 28, 2022)—In an effort to educate residents and visitors how to respectfully engage with coral reef ecosystems in Hawai‘i Island’s Kahalu‘u Bay, The Kohala Center has released Aloha ‘Āina Kahalu‘u (https://koha.la/aloha-aina-kahaluu), a series of short videos intended to help beachgoers get to know the bay before they visit.
As Hawai‘i Island’s second-most popular visitor destination, attracting nearly half a million beachgoers each year, corals in Kahalu‘u Bay are struggling to survive in the face of numerous stressors, including rising ocean temperatures, poor water quality, pollution from chemical sunscreens, and physical damage from swimmers and snorkelers stepping, standing, kicking, and walking on established corals and the reef floor where young corals grow.
With funding support provided by Hawai‘i Tourism Authority through its Aloha ‘Āina program and from the County of Hawai‘i Department of Research and Development, The Kohala Center produced the series of ten videos in-house, covering topics such as Kahalu‘u’s historical and ecological significance, coral, honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles), responsible sun protection, how to safely enter and explore the bay, and simple reef etiquette tips to minimize impact on the bay’s fragile marine ecosystem.
“Kahalu‘u’s natural and cultural resources have been compromised over the last few decades by increases in several chronic stressors, many a result of more people visiting the bay than it can handle,” said Cindi Punihaole, director of Kahalu‘u Bay Education Center, a program administered by The Kohala Center in partnership with the County of Hawai‘i. “We want to guide people who visit the bay how to engage respectfully with it so they can still have an enjoyable experience while minimizing their impact on this wahi pana (sacred place). Through these short videos, we hope to reach as many people as possible before they visit, so they engage in pono practices at Kahalu‘u and at wahi pana across Hawai‘i.”
Just south of Kailua-Kona, Kahaluʻu is home to significant cultural sites, a unique intertidal system, an important coral reef, and a diverse array of marine life. The resources in and around Kahalu‘u Bay provide a multitude of ecological, cultural, social, and economic benefits to Hawai‘i Island’s leeward coast. The bay is located in the Kahalu‘u-Keauhou heritage corridor and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In April 2020, Kahaluʻu Beach Park was identified by the County of Hawaiʻi as a “tourism hotspot” because of its high level of tourism impact along with its importance to the community. Because of its ongoing stewardship of Kahaluʻu, The Kohala Center was asked to help guide the development of a tourism action plan that would establish pono practices and innovative strategies for sustaining the cultural and natural resources at the park into the future. The Aloha ‘Āina Kahalu‘u video series is part of a comprehensive effort to balance ecosystem health and biodiversity with economic recovery and resilience.
“The pandemic and the ensuing pause on tourism significantly reduced the volume of people visiting Kahalu‘u Bay for almost nine months, and during this time we witnessed an incredible return of balance and abundance to the bay,” said Kathleen Clark, The Kohala Center’s marine stewardship and education specialist. “Water clarity improved, marine life and native species we hadn’t seen in years returned, and native coastal plants started to grow in the normally bustling park. We were able to witness what was possible when areas like this have a respite from chronic stress, and we want to maintain these gains as best we can. Educating residents and visitors and helping them become stewards of this wahi pana are central to our efforts to protect and heal this bay that we love like a member of our own family.”
Since 2006, The Kohala Center has worked to increase the resilience of the coral reef ecosystem at Kahaluʻu by mitigating local stressors through a strong network of trained community stewards, applied research, and education. Through a unique public-nonprofit partnership, The Center and the County of Hawai‘i established Kahalu‘u Bay Education Center in 2011, providing daily on-site education, research, and environmental monitoring to protect and enhance the bay. Over the years, The Center has trained 2,200 ReefTeach community stewards who have educated an estimated 690,000 visitors and students about coral reef conservation and the importance of proper reef etiquette, as well as collected water quality data and other ecological data for analysis as citizen scientists.
About The Kohala Center
Founded in the year 2000, The Kohala Center (kohalacenter.org) is an independent, community-based center focused on research, education, and ‘āina stewardship for healthier ecosystems. By turning ancestral knowledge and research into action, we cultivate conditions that reconnect us with our place, water, food, and people, so that communities in Hawai‘i and around the world can thrive—ecologically, culturally, economically, and socially.
Aloha ‘Āina Kahalu‘u video series: https://koha.la/aloha-aina-kahaluu
The Kohala Center: https://kohalacenter.org
Kahalu‘u Bay Education Center: https://kohalacenter.org/kbec
Hawai‘i Tourism Authority: https://hawaiitourismauthority.org
County of Hawai‘i Department of Parks and Recreation: https://www.parks.hawaiicounty.gov
County of Hawai‘i Department of Research and Development: https://www.rd.hawaiicounty.gov
Available for download at https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1zo8IQexPMmVzIJvTTkVQxTSYorsBcd5P?usp=sharing
[KohalaCenter_Aloha_Aina_Kahaluu_juvenile_coral.jpg] A juvenile lobe coral (Porites lobata) established on the seafloor at Kahalu‘u Bay. Several coral stressors, such as human contact from standing, stepping on, and kicking coral, and chemicals found in non-mineral sunscreens can be reduced significantly through education and proper reef etiquette. Photo credit: The Kohala Center
[KohalaCenter_Aloha_Aina_Kahaluu_honu.jpg] A young honu (Hawaiian green sea turtle) grazes on limu (algae) in Kahalu‘u Bay. Honu are a threatened species that are protected by state and federal laws. Visitors are encouraged not to not to touch, chase, feed, or harass them, and to maintain a distance of at least 10 feet (3 meters) at all times. Photo credit: The Kohala Center
[KohalaCenter_Aloha_Aina_Kahaluu_snorkeler.jpg] A snorkeler floats over coral in shallow water at Kahalu‘u Bay. Swimmers and snorkelers are encouraged to stay afloat and not to stand, step on, or kick corals or the rocks where corals grow. Photo credit: The Kohala Center
[KohalaCenter_Aloha_Aina_Kahaluu_ReefTeacher.jpg] Ann Humphrey, a community steward with The Kohala Center’s ReefTeach program at Kahalu‘u Bay, guides beachgoers on how to properly enter the bay and engage respectfully with its fragile coral reef ecosystem. Photo credit: The Kohala Center
[KohalaCenter_Aloha_Aina_Kahaluu_mineral_sunscreen.jpg] In a scene from the Aloha ‘Āina Kahalu‘u series’ “Sun Protection” episode, Chris O’Donnell demonstrates one of the mineral sunscreen dispensers available to visitors to Kahalu‘u Bay. Through on-site education and advocacy, The Kohala Center’s Kahalu‘u Bay Education Center has helped to reduce the volume of non-mineral sunscreen chemicals entering the bay. Photo credit: The Kohala Center