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Maui Ocean Quality Update & How You Can Help

By April 14, 2024 No Comments

Eagle Ray in Sun Rays Over Reef

Studying ocean quality in Maui is of paramount importance due to the island’s reliance on its marine ecosystems for tourism, recreation, food, and overall ecological balance. With its pristine beaches, vibrant coral reefs, and diverse marine life, Maui’s oceans attract millions of visitors annually and support a thriving coastal economy. However, human activities, pollution, climate change, and other environmental factors like the disastrous Lahaina fire in 2023 pose significant threats to the health and sustainability of Maui’s marine environments. By understanding and monitoring ocean quality, researchers, policymakers, and communities can work collaboratively to protect and preserve Maui’s oceans for current and future generations. 

Surfrider Foundation Lahaina Water Quality Testing Results

Lahaina Harbor Water Sampling

Surfrider crew sampling at Lahaina Harbor. Photo by Surfrider Foundation.

In our recent post, Maui Ocean Quality Post-Fire and For the Future, we compiled for you lots of information about the nonprofits and research institutions working to understand the impacts of the Lahaina fire on the neighboring ocean environment. While some had preliminary results in, we were still eagerly awaiting the results of Surfrider Foundation’s testing. 

Theirs was extensive and included the time immediately following the first big rain event in Lahaina post-fire. We also really appreciate Surfrider’s efforts specifically because their focus in interpreting results is on whether the ocean is safe for people to swim, surf, and snorkel. Read more about the testing they performed here. 

Now, their preliminary results are in! Click here to read all about it. The TLDR for those of you in a hurry: “we did not find evidence during our initial sampling run of fire-related contamination that would put human health at risk from recreation in the ocean.”

This is a big relief to hear more evidence that is supportive of other testing conducted by different research parties, suggesting that the fire did not make the ocean around to it unsafe for human recreation. As one researcher suggested in the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council video here, the ocean is pretty good at dispersing and diluting contaminants. However, it’s still important to keep in mind that all of these results are preliminary. Ongoing study is certainly warranted for potential fire cleanup contamination, post rain events, and the effects of climate change long term. 

Future Focus

Surfrider sampling sites

Map of sites Surfrider Foundation sampled.

One important factor to keep in mind in the near term is that Surfrider Foundation intends to continue monitoring the ocean near the temporary disposal site in the Olowalu area. It’s very reassuring to know that we’ll have good eyes and instruments on that precious area of our ocean, which includes our oldest reef system. So stay tuned!

Enjoy Mindfully

For now, those who are otherwise healthy and planning to go out in clear ocean waters, can know that they are safely enjoying the beauty of Maui’s nearshore realm. Remember, if you’d like to check the most recent ocean testing for everyday runoff contamination, you can easily do that here. This testing is monthly, and covers sites all around Maui. Finally, we don’t need sophisticated testing or the internet to know that if the water you’re thinking of entering is brown, turn around!

Ways You Can Help

Be A Good Ocean Citizen

Enjoy the ocean in all the ways possible! However, remember that it’s up to every single one of us to do our part in protecting and nurturing the ocean for the future. Some of the most immediate ways you can do that are:

  • wear reef-safe mineral sunblock only,
  • always properly dispose of your trash, and pick up any that you encounter,
  • and keep a respectful distance from reef and wildlife.

Earth Day Beach Cleanup

Surfrider Foundation is hosting an Earth Day beach cleanup event at Kahului Harbor on Saturday, April 20, 9am-12pm. It’s totally free to join, though advance registration is encouraged. Register and get all the information you need to take some action for Maui’s ocean health here. 

Be A Honu Hero

If you can’t make it to the Earth Day cleanup event, you can be a Honu Hero any day of the week! Honu Hero is a beach cleanup program offered by the Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute. It’s free to sign up and pick up your kit. Plus, it’s extremely convenient because it can be on your schedule. Learn more about becoming a Honu Hero here. 

Donate to Further Research

Nonprofit organizations and educational institutions are leading the way in studying our ocean’s health and helping us understand how we can preserve and nurture it for today and the future. Here are some of those on the frontline that would greatly appreciate more funding. 

Surfrider Foundation, Maui Chapter

Maui Nui Marine Resource Council (and Hui O Ka Wai Ola)

Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute

In conclusion, the importance of ocean quality in Maui cannot be overstated. It is the lifeblood of the island’s economy, culture, and natural heritage. Preserving and improving ocean quality is not just a responsibility but also an investment in the future of Maui and its communities. By prioritizing sustainable practices, conservation efforts, and ongoing research, we can ensure that Maui’s oceans remain healthy, vibrant, and resilient for generations to come. Together, we can safeguard the beauty and integrity of Maui’s oceans for a sustainable and thriving future.

About Auntie Snorkel

Auntie Snorkel shop has been serving Maui’s fun seekers for over 33 years, established in 1985. We're the original South Maui Snorkel Shop. When I bought the shop 10 years ago from Auntie, we decided to keep the name. The name "Auntie" is a term of respect here in Hawaii. I'm living my dream. I get to meet awesome people from all over the world and share with them my love and knowledge of this magical island that I get to call home. We know all the spots. I have lived here since 2001. We're the true definition of a family owned and operated shop. I answer the phones and work the shop along with my family. When you shop with us you're supporting my ohana and for that I thank you!! Why go anywhere else? We're the friendliest, fastest, cheapest and our location is the most epic! Mahalo and Aloha”. ~Mark Noble (Owner & Maui Fun Expert)

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