Molokini rim

The future of our planet is strongly dependent on the health of our oceans and reefs, and island living gives us an up-close understanding of how our actions, big and small, affect our ocean. The health of our ocean is in rapid decline, and will see permanent damage over the next two generations if we don’t act now to reverse these trends.  The good news is, we have the power to speak up and protect our oceans. You can do your part by paying attention to three things that affect our oceans in big ways:

1. Development: Sediment from coastal development, poor storm water management and debris runoff are just a few ways that development impacts our coral reefs, and the impacts can be seen almost immediately. Our community has seen big victories when we demand that our most pristine areas be protected from development.  We were able to stop development around Honolua, and have established a community based management system to keep the area healthy for generations to come. We also need to keep our eyes on Olowalu, where there is big development planned. Pay attention to what is going on with development, and attend planning commission meetings when you can. Speak up for the reef when it needs you.

2. Toxic Runoff: All of the toxins we use on land end up in our oceans, one way or another. Pay attention to what is being used in your yard and neighborhood. Does your landscaper use chemical fertilizers and weed killers that will end up in the ocean? Your food choices matter too.  You can support farmers who aren’t using harmful chemicals that will end up in the ocean by buying organic, and better yet, local produce. Sustainable farming practices make healthy soil, which makes healthy oceans. It’s all connected.

3. Climate Change: The warming and acidification of our oceans has dramatic impacts on coral and other sea life. This year, Hawaii experienced the most extensive coral bleaching damage in history.  Estimates of coral loss range from 10% to 30%.  Make changes in your daily life that reduce your carbon footprint, and support candidates and legislation on local and national levels that take big steps to stop climate change.

It is our kuleana to pay attention to how our actions affect our oceans. Let’s turn these negative trends around and secure a healthy ocean, while we still can.

Image Credit: Pauline Feine

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Elle Cochran holds the County Council seat for the West Maui residency area. She was first elected in 2010 and is serving her third consecutive term in office. She is the founder of the ‘Save Honolua Coalition’ and is the current chair of the Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee.

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