Friday, February 14, 2014

Losing, or winning, a chance to clean up Kaneʻohe Bay

Kaneʻohe Bay morning.  Photo S. Pagliaro
A bay is only as good as its water quality. How do we improve this? 
An excellent way is to clean up the watersheds that feed into the bay. To assist in the process of cleaning up bays and coastlines, there is a program that funds research and community planning to improve coastal waters. It is called the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (or NERRS).

In their words, "The Reserve System uses its living laboratories to find solutions to crucial issues facing America's coasts:
Climate Change and Resilience
Habitat Protection
Water Quality

The NERRS Science Collaborative brings science and communities together to solve coastal problems. "
K-Bay juvenile parrotfish.  Image M. Heckman
Why might we lose this chance to help clean up Kaneʻohe Bay?

Kane'ohe Bay has been chosen to host a NERRS site and has long term partners to support it.  However, the next step is for the public to provide positive support to establish the site, or negative support will lose it.
The note can be short - but have your say - comments should go in before the next meeting that presents public comment just a week or so down the line (Feb 27th).

Send in comments via this link:

Aerial view of Coconut Island in Kaneohe Bay.

Who supports this locally? A wide group of partners have worked very hard to propose to have a section of Kaneʻohe Bay become a NERRS site, including HIMB, Kākoʻo ʻŌiwi (one of their projects is to restore the wetlands up to the mountains mauka of the Heʻeia fishpond), Paepae O Heʻeia (who manage the fishpond),  Heʻeia State Park, the Koʻolaupoko Hawaiian Civic Club and others. 
Do some oppose this designation? Yes, at the last public meeting, I heard that some felt that this would bring federal and fishing regulation to the bay.

Is there federal or state regulation that comes with a NERRS?
No - NERRS is not a regulatory agency. They will only help fund the local community to do research to identify the issues, then support the local community in deciding how to best proceed in dealing with the issues, but they have no regulatory aspect.  

Since NERRS sites are estuaries, wetlands and such where streams, rivers and water enter the sea, most of their work has been to improve the wetlands and upland areas that feed into bays and coastal areas. Improve the water coming in, and the bay’s water and fish, corals and so on, just get better. 

NERRS sites also focus on invasive species removal - certainly we have lots of invasive species to remove.
Smothering seaweed killing coral in Kaneohe Bay
Invasive alga, Kane'ohe Bay - Photo DLNR
What don't they do? I could not find a NERRS site that had an MPA (Marine Protected Area). Really none had special fishing regulations at all, unless they were endorsed by the local fishing community. In fact, many sites sponsored their own popular fishing tournaments. Again, NERRS sites focus on wetland restoration and alien species removal to improve water quality.  

Here is an example of a typical NERRS site advisory committee:
"ACE Basin NERR Advisory Committee
To provide for effective coordination and cooperation among all interests involved with the Reserve, an ACE Basin Advisory Committee was established following designation in 1992. The Committee meets at least twice annually and the Deputy Director for Marine Resources of DNR chairs the Committee. The Reserve Manager serves as staff to the Committee. The Chairperson, as needed, appoints sub-Committees for research and education.
The Committee may consist of the following representative groups:
•Marine Education •Scientific Community
•Local Landowners •Local Government
•Environmental Interest
•Commercial Fishing
•Recreational Fishing
•Timber Industry
•Private Non-Profit Conservation •State-Federal Agencies Active in ACE Basin
•Business Community"

This looks to me to be a pretty long list, and I am sure in Hawaii, we would modify this to include cultural groups and more. 

I encourage you to take a look at the NERRS program, if you see issues with it, let me know. It looks good to me though - lets improve the water quality in our watersheds at the very least. It would be great to see Kaneʻohe Bay become a coral garden once more. 
Kane'ohe bay reef.    HIMB image

Again, to help determine whether this program comes to Kaneʻohe Bay send your comments (they can be very short) to:



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