'Ridge to Reef Rendezvous' debuts new events in celebration of stewardship in West Maui

Lahaina News
August 6, 2015

KAANAPALI - The recent celebration of mauka to makai stewardship in West Maui brought together over 150 community members, fishers, scientists, local conservation groups and their volunteer teams, resource managers, enforcement agencies, Kaanapali area resorts and Maui visitors.

The "Ridge to Reef Rendezvous" took place Saturday morning, July 25, at Kahekili Beach Park (Old Airport Beach) in West Maui. While this event has historically celebrated the anniversary of the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area (KHFMA) - a first-of-its-kind Marine Managed Area located in North Kaanapali, now in its sixth year of existence - this year's festivities highlighted positive action and community collaboration at a broader watershed scale in West Maui.

The theme of the event was "resilience" to symbolize the optimism and hopefulness that accompanies the diversity of collaborative conservation and stewardship efforts underway in West Maui. The theme also speaks to the ecological concept of the same name, which focuses on an ecosystem's ability to persist and recover in the face of threats to its health.

The Papio Catch & Release Fishing Tournament had 65 total entrants and drew numerous families and West Maui community members to support the fishers. The winners in the tournament's papio category were Brandee Perreira with a 26.3-centimeter papio, Evan Pascual in second with a 22.4-centimeter papio and Kawela Silva in third with a 21.4-centimeter fish. In the open (but not herbivore species) category, Ross Cluney won with a 34-centimeter lai, followed by Sebastian Martinez in second with a 33.4-centimeter roi, and Kahaka Ko in third with a 33.3-centimeter cigar wrasse.

Tournament organizer Adam Wong from the state Division of Aquatic Resources deemed the first fishing tournament a success, noting he was "glad to see the local fishing community spending a day with their 'ohana at the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area. It's all about teaching pono fishing practices to the next generation."

At the Stump (and Soak) a Scientist Station, eight visiting and local researchers offered themselves up for a unique form of "Q&A" to share their work - one that resulted in a good-natured soaking with a sponge ball by event-goers intent on stumping them.

Mary Donavan, a PhD student from the University of Hawaii who studies ocean tipping points, was one of the scientists up for the soaking. She noted after the event, "people asked really thought-provoking questions, and we learned a lot from them! Hopefully they also learned something from us about the science behind ridge to reef management."

The day's activities also included a ridge to reef-themed culinary contest for the fourth year running, with entries judged by event-goers based on appearance. First place went to Linda Castro for her incredibly detailed and beautiful half-healthy, half-degraded reef cake complete with a scuba diver conducting an underwater research survey. Second place went to Darlene Wallace, a previous year's winner, with her elaborate beach scene that incorporated graham cracker crust "sand," and third prize was awarded by random drawing to Flo Bahr, whose humpback whale cake included models and interpretive signage about different types of whale behavior.

Regular beach-goers recognize the bright yellow shirts of the Kaanapali Makai Watch team who keep an eye on the area, much like the well-known "Neighborhood Watch" program. This team of engaged and dedicated volunteers who assist with education/outreach and citizen science activities contributed greatly to the success of the event. Don Judy, one of the program's longstanding volunteers, said after the event, "I'm constantly amazed at how everything we've done as volunteers, bringing the community closer together and getting everyone on the same page, is working!"

Event hosts included the West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative (R2R), West Maui Kumuwai Campaign, Project S.E.A.-Link, Kaanapali Makai Watch and the state Department of Aquatic Resources.

Tova Callender, West Maui Watershed coordinator with the Ridge to Reef Initiative and event co-coordinator, summed up the event and its results by saying, "It was exciting to see such an enthusiastic crowd with so many new faces, both locals and visitors. I got the sense everyone walked away with a new perspective on at least some aspect of the many mauka to makai stewardship efforts."

Event co-coordinator Liz Foote of Project S.E.A.-Link, who manages the Kaanapali Makai Watch and West Maui Kumuwai Campaign, added, "it was an honor and a pleasure to put this event together for the community with so much support from our team. It was more fun and educational than we'd even imagined, and we'd like to thank everyone who participated, from the volunteers to the participants and all the generous sponsors!"

Event sponsors and funders included the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, Honua Kai West Maui Community Fund, Maui Brewing Co., the Koraleski family, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Sangrita Grill, Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas, C.J's Deli & Diner, Kaanapali Beach Hotel, Royal Lahaina Resort, Trilogy Excursions, Roy's at Kaanapali, Sea House Restaurant at Napili Kai Beach Resort, Boss Frog's Dive & Surf, Beach Activities of Maui, Maui Ocean Center, Choice Health Bar, Leoda's Kitchen and Pie Shop, Star Noodle, Aloha Mixed Plate, West Maui Sports & Fishing Supply, Maui Sporting Goods, and New Maui Fishing Supply.

For more information, and to see photos from the event, visit the Kaanapali Makai Watch Facebook page at www.facebook.com/KaanapaliMakaiWatch, call 669-9062 or e-mail KaanapaliMakaiWatch@gmail.com.

For those who are interested in getting involved as a volunteer, the next meeting will be held on Saturday, Aug. 8, from 9 a.m. to noon at Kahekili Beach Park. Ongoing meetings are held the second Saturday of each month (same time and location).

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