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Coral Reef Initiative
Conservation and Protection

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Maui’s Coral Reefs: There has been a decline in Maui County’s reef health as documented over the last decade by the State Division of Aquatic Resources.

Coral depends on clean water to create a healthy living environment. And, according to the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council a 2014 report done by the Hawaii State Department of Health monitoring the quality of water showed that compared to any other island in the state Maui has the most impaired waters.

Why are healthy reefs important?

The health if Maui’s coral reefs are something that everyone, visitors and locals alike, should care about. Coral reefs are the basis for an entire ecosystem. Once coral dies the ecosystem that is built upon it will eventually collapse as creatures die or move on to another area.

Healthy coral reefs and the ecosystem that they support, from vibrantly colored tropical fish to the beautiful honu (Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle), attract visitors from all around the world, which in turn supports the marine life activities industry and creates jobs for residents of Maui County.

What can I do to help protect reefs?

There are numerous things you can do to help with the conservation of reefs that range from large acts of kindness, like volunteering for clean up missions, to smaller every day acts, like composting biodegradable waste in your garden.

Good management can save our reefs.

Dr. Cynthia Hunter, Ph.D.

Healthy coral reefs are exceedingly important. Reefs support bustling diverse ecosystems that provide shelter to a fourth of all identified marine species and act as natural barriers, which protect the coastline from the ocean’s pounding waves.

Additionally, coral reefs are also known as “medicine chests of the sea”, with a number of its marine creatures producing compounds that have been used for human application, including treatments for cardiovascular diseases and leukemia! Coral reefs support numerous industries from food to medicine to tourism, and it is up to us to assist in their conservation and protection.


Live sustainably! What does that mean? Well, it means reducing your carbon footprint in an effort to reverse the effects of global warming. Extra heat from warmer temperatures puts stress on the coral, which leads to bleaching. Bleaching is the loss of color from tissue, causing it to expose its skeleton.

  • Recycle to limit the amount of pollutants in our landfills
  • Compost your biodegradable waste in your garden
  • Plant a rain garden to absorb polluted runoff
  • Avoid pesticides which can runoff and end up in our ocean
  • Conserve water—careful water usage means that less runoff will end up in the ocean
  • Buy sustainable seafood
  • Become an advocate for reef conservation
  • Be a pono (responsible) fisher, taking only what you need as you follow the guidelines set by State of Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources
  • Avoid buying items that are made from coral or other marine life
When Traveling

Did you know that eighty percent of the United State’s coral reefs call Hawaii home? As such it is important to research coral-friendly businesses, from hotels to marine tour companies, to know what they are doing to help the environment. If you are planning on participating in a marine tour, don’t hesitate to ask what the company does to support ecotourism. Ecotourism is intended to create a positive experience that assists in building environmental and cultural awareness.

Additionally there are measures you can take to ensure that after your ocean adventure the only thing you leave behind is bubbles. Be responsible when you are participating in a marine tour—be sure that you are following local rules and regulations.

Before Your Adventure / Be a Responsible Visitor
  • Spend your vacation at hotel that has environmentally friendly practices, including energy conservation and recycling
  • Choose a reef-friendly marine tour that, among other things, uses available moorings, gives environmental briefings, and uses available wastewater pump-out facilities
  • Educate yourself about coral reefs—learn all you can about these lovely and fragile environments before your excursion
  • Purchase "reef safe" sunscreen—when you are in the water sunscreen can wash off potentially harming marine life
  • Consider using a snorkel vest for additional buoyancy, especially if you are an inexperienced snorkeler
  • Practice snorkeling skills away from the reef
  • Be sure that your equipment fits and well secured before entering the water
  • Make a donation when visiting coral parks or other marine conservation areas
When in the Water
  • Do not touch the coral, this means no standing or resting on them—even the lightest touch can harm them and certain coral can sting
  • Relax and take your time as you swim, it is important to move slowly so as not to accidentally disturb the coral
  • Be aware of your fins so you do not accidentally stir up sediment
  • Avoid wearing gloves and kneepads when in a coral environment
  • Remain horizontal when in the water if you are near or above a reef
  • Maintain a reasonable distance from the coral
  • Refrain from urinating while you are in the water, as anecdotal evidence suggests that human waste, specifically urine, increases algae growth which suffocates coral and impedes its growth
  • Do not take anything out of the water, with the exception of any trash you may find that is not home to living organisms