Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Maui Ocean Awareness Training; My first O.A.T.!

I guess I should start at the beginning...
Last night at the Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, I attended my first OAT. (Ocean Awareness Training)

Our first guest speaker was a man named Dean Tokishi. He is an Ocean Resources Specialist for the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve Commission.

He talked about the history of Kaho'olawe;
How it wasn't only the bombing that lead to it's degradation, but the ranching period from 1858 to 1941. They had cattle, sheep and goats, which degraded the island.

In December 8, 1941 through 1990 it was used as a bombing facility by the United States Navy.

In the year 1965, Operation Sailors Hat was conducted. It tested the effects of atomic shockwaves by using 500 tons of TNT. This operation was conducted three times. It created this crater on Kaho'olawe

Dean explained to us how on January 4, 1976, the "Kaho'olawe Nine", a group of nine people, led the first protest in an effort to stop the United Stated Navy from bombing on Kaho'olawe.

In 1990 President George Bush halted the bombings on Kaho'olawe.
In 1994 the island was returned to the state of Hawai'i
And in 2003, the Navy transferred control of access to the state of Hawai'i.

It's hard for me to explain what Kaho'olawe is like today because there is so much going on now!
-Restoration and monitoring of the islands vegetation
-It's a marine managed area, so they have a Ulua Fish Tagging Project and a Opakapaka Fish Tagging Project
-Marine debris wash up in this bay area called Kanapou Bay

He said that Kaho'olawe was able to receive an 18 month grant, which was funded by NOAA, to clean up Kanapou Bay.
At the end of this expedition, his team and many many volunteers had removed 31 tons of debris from Kanapou Bay! (Holy... crap...)
They didn't want to throw all of that into the Maui Landfill, so they did what they could to distribute the trash so that most of it would stay OUT of the ladfill.
Dean told us that 7 1/2 tons of plastic trash was sent to Zurich. People from a Zurich Symposium sent them a container and they filled it with as much trash as they could.
The nets they collected were bundled up and used to pack down certain areas that needed erosion control.
Some of the collected debris went to local artists and only five tons of trash went to the landfill.
They were bummed out that some of the trash went to the landfill, but since we live in the Hawaiian islands, SHIPPING COSTS are super expensive.
(97% of the grant money went to helicopters to haul the trash away)

(I found this picture to show how bad the erosion problem is. Dean said that the island was literally "melting away.")

There was a chapter in the Hawai'i Revised Statutes that explained how there were specific basic uses for Kaho'olawe.
In short, the first was for cultural use.
The second was for the preservation and protection of archeological, historical, environmental sites and resources.
Another was for the rehabilitation of Kaho'olawe and another was for education.
He said commercial use was strictly prohibited when it came to Kaho'olawe although "take" is allowed as long as it's only for yourself and you won't sell anything you get from Kaho'olawe.

He also told us about a lot of the problems that his team faces on Kaho'olawe. One of the big ones was the annual loss of 1.5 million tons of top soil due to rain.
Although Kaho'olawe is an arid area, because there isn't much vegetation, top soil is lost easily.

A quote I got from Dean was "If it's salty, sandy or wet, it's our responsibility." I thought it was a really cool quote. That's kind of how I feel like when it comes to Maui.

Another cool thing he mentioned about Kaho'olawe was that over the last 10 years, 5 monk seal births (or puppings) have taken place right below Sailors Hat Crater.
It is SO amazing how something so amazing can happen in a place where there was so much destruction.

Dean's portion really enlightened me about Kaho'olawe.
He said that there are volunteer opportunities, but if you were to sign up today, the waiting list is so long that you would probably need to wait 2 years until you actually got to go to the island.

A question that was asked after Dean's presentation was over was "What is the future for Kaho'olawe?" and Dean just answered "No one knows".
They just manage the island daily and do what they have to to restore Kaho'olawe to it's former glory.

[Part two on my OAT blog entry will be posted in a separate entry. Next entry will be about Darla White, Liz Foote and Lune Kekoa]

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