Let Them Eat Algae

Kā‘anapali’s marine reserve is protecting the reef by protecting the fish.

Orangespine Unicorn Fish
Since Kahekili’s designation as a protected area, fish populations are up, as this school of orangespine unicornfish can attest.

Seven years after designation and protection of this imperiled reef, the Department of Aquatic Resources reports that the sheer biomass of parrotfishes has increased an astounding 135 percent.

Surgeonfish biomass is up 40 percent. Foote adds, “If we are really serious about conservation on a large and on an individual scale, I think it’s possible to reverse a decline and revert to abundance and sustainability. You have to be optimistic. Eventually I’d like to see abundance of fishes from the apex predators on down.”

Before you dive in to play in the waters off this northern stretch of Kā‘anapali Beach, take time to learn about the area. Read the signs, and make yourself aware of any regulations — for example, know that feeding fish is illegal in the management area (and it’s a good idea not to do it anywhere in the world). Foote also recommends visitors ask their concierge or water-sports activity companies what is and isn’t responsible behavior. And look for the stainless-steel literature boxes that Makai Watch volunteers attached to some of the signs at the beach for easy access to good information.

Depending on the time of year, any one of the following may be happening at the beach, and you can join in: land and water cleanups, water-quality monitoring demonstrations, volunteer potlucks, or the yearly birthday bash that raises awareness of the management area and features a wacky ocean-themed culinary contest. You may find yourself answering beachgoer-awareness surveys run by earnest, sweet kids from local youth groups and charter-school classes, kids whose immediate future really does depend on healthy reefs. The Westin Kā‘anapali Ocean Resort Villas holds a beach cleanup on New Year’s Day, the 4th of July, and once in September for the International Coastal Cleanup initiative.

Says Foote, “We hope to help the resorts create even more chances for visitors to be a part of citizen-science efforts such as fish surveys or water-quality monitoring. I’ve been hearing more from the volunteers about bigger fish and bigger schools, and then DAR [Division of Aquatic Resources] started getting upward trends in the data. . . . I actually saw a school of 1,000 parrotfish. This is really a special area, and all of us can play a stewardship role through our actions. When you’re in the water here, you’re a part of it.”



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