Among a large number of marine life, some of the oldest (over 300-years-old) coral in the state of Hawaii finds its home right here in Maui. Olowalu reef, spanning over 1,000 acres, is reportedly the largest and most developed of the Valley Isle. At the heart of the island, the reef’s location has made it a popular spawning ground and has become a crucial part of populating reefs around not only Maui but islands Molokai and Lanai as well. Due to the current condition of this marine hub, Oluwalu has been recently designated as a Mission Blue Hope Spot, earmarking it for enhanced protection.
At Hawaii Ocean Project, we could not be more excited about this news; but what contributed to this new classification and conservation effort? Recent coral bleaching events and decades of plantation run off have become the most evident culprits and have drastically taken their toll on the area. Tropical rains that run down the mountains bring soil of the once sugar cane-covered slopes into the ocean, turning the Olowalu waters to a “chocolate brown”. Along with smothering the coral, the sediment also reduces the amount of required sunlight that the coral needs to grow.
Even with the environmental impacts that are currently affecting the area, life still stirs in the sparkling blue waters just off Olowalu. Even though half of the reef has been lost, there is still a significant amount remaining. This has the conservation community along with residents hopeful that this new designation will bring not only awareness but also support to get our oceans healthy!
Malama Ka Aina (respect the land) is a core value here in Hawaii and extends to the deep blue that surrounds the island chain. So if you happen to find yourself on our Molokini snorkel trip or Lanai snorkel tour, we hope that the overwhelming beauty of the underwater world, as well as the island itself, will inspire you to join the conservation efforts and take steps towards maintaining as well as helping the planet heal.