This past President’s Day, February 20th, I joined the invasive algae clean-up at Kaimana beach. I first participated in the invasive algae clean-up when I took BOT 480 in 2011 and felt it was a great way to get students, faculty, and the community involved in helping preserve Hawai`i’s reefs.
The clean-ups began in 2002. It related to a research project involving Dr. Celia Smith of UH’s botany department that showed the introduction of the algae, Gracilaria salicornia, drastically changed the reef ecology of Waikiki (Sauvage, Most, Smith & Smith). The invasive algae G. salicornia had grown to replace native limu kohu (Asparagopsis taxiformis) and limu kala (Sargassum echinocarpum ) and consequently reduced the number of herbivores on the reef (Sauvage, et al. ; Huisman, Abbott & Smith 2007). Dr. Smith planned the clean-ups to try and remove G. salicornia in hopes of promoting a healthy reef.
At the day’s clean-up, I talked to a few key members of the operation. There was Dr. Smith, who called her role the “chief cheerleader;” Mary Lou Foley, the Director of Community Outreach at the Waikiki Aquarium; and Veronica Gibson, student of UH and board member of Hukilau Hui. Some information I found out was 100 tons of biomass has been removed from Kaimana resulting in regrowth of native limu kohu and limu kala. Also, the clean-up has grown to include many new and welcomed partnerships:
- - NOAA and the Hawai`i Community Foundation—funding
- - The Honolulu Zoo—invasive algae are sent to the zoo where it is combined with “zoo doo” to make compost
- - Hukilau Hui –club that helps in the operations of the clean-up
- - Waikiki Aquarium—helps with ocean education and public awareness
- - Jefferson Elementary—kids join in education activities with the school and the Waikiki Aquarium, help at clean-ups , and get a free shirt for participating
- - Aqua Resorts provides the shirts for the kids.
It was kind of amazing to me how much this program had expanded. It started with a problem observed through scientific research and Dr. Smith decided to do something about it—“Who’s going to take care of these reefs if we don’t? If we don’t, it’s like we’re throwing up our hands and giving up. I was not willing to give up.” To think how that conviction has lead to so much change. Besides the change with-in the program, there was a lot more happening just within the day I was there. We removed 1500 lbs of invasive algae, but also helped raise awareness by simply being there; people walking around Waikiki that stopped to ask questions about the clean-up helped spread awareness.
I think the success of this program and programs like it is that the community is educated and involved in the solution to a problem. Dr. Smith, Mary Lou and Veronica each expressed similar hopes for the future of this program–promote awareness and education about invasive algae and preserving Hawai`i’s environment. I also agree with this approach and think it will be the most effective way to create change.
Interested in helping out?
Keep an eye out for invasive algae clean-up at Kaimana Beach in events calendars, including UH’s. Or if you want to join Hukilau Hui, their email is firstname.lastname@example.org and facebook page is : https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hukilau-Hui/132603320120209?sk=wall
Huisman, J.M., Abbott, I.A., and C. M. Smith (2007). Hawaiian Reef Plants. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai`i Sea Grant College Program.
Sauvage, T., Most, R., Smith, J.E. & C.M. Smith. Frondose community shift associated with Gracilaria salicornia introduction in Waikiki. (Oahu, Hawaii). Poster.
Huisman, J.M. (photographer). Gracilaria salicornia (C. Agardh) E.Y. Dawson. http://algaebase.org/search/images/detail/?img_id=17926