WAIMEA, Hawaii (KHON2) — A five year project to protect and improve the nearshore marine environment and coral ecosystem health in the Kawaihae 1 Watershed was recently completed by The Kohala Center.

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Completed improvements include the repairing and installation of 14.9 miles of fencing, removal of over 1,000 feral goats, protection of 76.2 acres of riparian corridors along Kilohana and Keawewai streams, and the revegetation of 25.05 acres with native dryland and mesic forest plants.

  • Honoka volunteers (Courtesy Kohala Center 2023)
  • (Courtesy Kohala Center 2023)
  • Honoka fenced unit (Courtesy Kohala Center 2023)
  • (Courtesy Kohala Center 2023)
  • (Courtesy Kohala Center 2023)

Community education and outreach engagements were also a prime effort of the improvements. Nearly 1,331 volunteers and staff were engaged through community presentations, volunteer workdays, field trips to learn about goat trapping, wildfire management and native plant species and revegetation.

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The production of this project was an active effort to reduce the impacts of climate change, erosion, sedimentation, and non-naturally occurring nutrients on critical habitats for coral, fish, and endangered species such as Hawaiian monk seals, green sea turtles and humpback whales. West Hawaii was chosen as a habitat focus area because of its extensive reef systems, tangible threats, ongoing conservation efforts and strong community involvement.

Improvements completed are expected to reduce the impact of feral ungulates, increase ground cover over eroding areas and restore native vegetation in important areas within the watershed reducing sediment deposits into the ocean. As a whole, the health of coral reefs should become more resilient with an enhanced habitat for Hawaiian monk seals.