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HWF Projects

Hawai'i Wildlife Fund leads research, monitoring and conservation efforts to help protect Hawai'i’s fragile marine ecosystem. Interested? Please email us at Mahalo!

   > Hawksbill Sea Turtle Recovery Project
   > HWF Honu Watch Project
   > Hawai'i Island Marine Debris Removal
   > Maui Marine Debris Removal Project
   > Waiohinu – Ka`u Forest Reserve Protection
   > Managing Better Together Learning Network
   > Makai Watch
   > Maui Reef Fund

> Hawksbill Sea Turtle Recovery Project

HWF has been conducting research and monitoring the nesting activities of hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) since 1996. Hawksbill foraging - photo by Jeff Kuehn There are fewer than 100 adult female hawksbills known to nest in all of Hawai‘i. The species is listed as endangered in Hawai‘i and worldwide and needs our protection. Through conservation efforts, public awareness, beachfront lighting reductions, fence repairs, dune restoration, beach cleanups, radio and satellite telemetry, coordination of a Turtle Watch program, and determining in-water distribution and abundance, HWF is helping to save hawksbills and their nesting habitats.

> HWF Honu Watch Project

Through its Honu Watch program, Hawaii Wildlife Fund monitors basking honu (turtles) to educate the community about the phenomenon called "basking," a rare behavior in which green sea turtles crawl ashore for reasons other than nesting. No other species of sea turtles are known to bask and the behavior has been documented only in Hawai'i and Australia. Basking turtles are common in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands but are seen on a more limited basis around the main Hawaiian Islands, which is where HWF's Honu Watchers help protect the turtles.

Turtles are especially vulnerable while basking on shore. Possible reasons for the behavior are that basking allows turtles to rest, raise their body temperature and/or to avoid predators (sharks). There may be other health-related benefits that are currently not understood, possibly linked to fibropapillomatosis, so it's important that the basking turtles are never disturbed. Show turtles aloha. Please report baskers by calling 808-643-3567 so that their health can be assessed, and do not approach closer than 15 feet (5 meters). Flash photography disturbs them, so please take pictures without flash. Dogs can injure turtles, so please keep them leashed.

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> Hawai'i Island Marine Debris Removal Project

The mega-gyre of floating plastic estimated to be larger than the state of Texas is pouring a steady stream of marine debris on certain beaches of Hawai’i. At South Point (Ka Lae) of Hawai’i Island (Big Island), HWF has cleaned more than 100 tons of marine debris from these Marine debris removal - click to enlargeremote beaches during the last four years. This coastline is visited by endangered Hawaiian monk seals, humpback whales, and nested on by the endangered hawksbill turtle.

HWF organized the first community shoreline cleanups here in 2003 and the effort has been continuous since. Over the past year, HWF has helped to remove more than 12 tons of marine debris from this nine-mile stretch of coastline.

The big problem is that the debris keeps coming ashore at a rate we’ve estimated to be 15-20 tons per year. HWF truck full of nets - click photo to enlargeMost of the large bundles of net, many weighing well over 1,000 pounds, are removed with special equipment we’ve built, and HWF works with Matson to ship the net and line to Honolulu where it is used to generate electricity in a trash-to-energy conversion plant (H-Power). HWF takes all of the other trash, including the 2,000+ bags of small plastic items collected to date, to the county for burial in a landfill.

Volunteers are a critical part of this shoreline effort and they’ve come from all over – the island, the state, the world – to participate.

To get involved in HWF's marine debris program, please contact
Megan Lamson (808) 769-7629,

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> Maui Marine Debris Removal Project

Waiehu's Ka'ehu Beach on the northwest coastline of Maui is one of the few nesting beaches for green turtles. It also happens to be one of the major marine debris collections zones of Maui. Ka'ehu Waiehu Coastal Cleanups: 4th Sunday of every monthHWF adopted this beach in 2012 in collaboration with the community and NOAA's tsunami monitoring program.

HWF hosted marine debris clean ups and research on this beach every month through September, 2015, as debris keeps washing ashore, including debris from the 2011 tsunami from Japan.

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> Waiohinu – Ka`u Forest Reserve Protection

The natural and cultural resources of a coastal strand along the southeast Hawaii Island came to the attention of Hawaii Wildlife Fund in 2001 with the birth of a monk seal pup on the beach.HWF is working to restore anchialine ponds to native ecosystems

At that time, this very large tract of land in the forest reserve of Ka'u was being leased for cattle grazing. Coastal access was extremely difficult over five miles of soft volcanic ash and very treacherous lava fields. The 1,300 coastal acres included over three dozen species of native Hawaiiian plants (one endangered), fields of Hawaiian petroglyphs, and four anchialine ponds (nearshore pools fed underground by both fresh and sea water - unique in the US to Hawai'i).

HWF initiated action to protect this resource-rich site by working with state agencies to facilitate a transfer of the coastal strand from grazing lease to “forest reserve” status, an action that was approved by the Hawai'i Board of Land and Natural Resources in 2005. HWF paid for the boundary survey and other costs of formal subdivision to complete the transfer.

> Managing Better Together Learning Network
HWF works with several other Hawaii-based non-government organizations to coordinate the bi-annual meetings of community marine management practitioners across the Main Hawaiian Islands. This "Managing Better Together (MBT) Learning Network" brings together coastal communities from around the Main Hawaiian Islands to enhance community-based marine management in the areas where participants live. Through the network, community members build skills and share their ideas, experiences and lessons learned through workshops, meetings and exchange visits.

MBT Learning Network accomplishments include:

  • Annual workshops since 2004 drawing about 80 community practitioners, local non-government organizations, state government officials and elected representatives.
  • At least five exchange visits annually which bring community members to project sites on other islands to learn first-hand about those projects.
  • Annual meetings for community representatives since 2005 drawing about 40 participants to address plans and goals for the MBT Learning Network and each community.

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> Makai Watch
Makai Watch is a coastal area monitoring and protection initiative that grew from a collaborative effort of community organizations, volunteers, conservation groups and state agencies. Now officially sanctioned by the State of Hawaii, Makai Watch works to restore and sustain Hawaii's coastal resources through community involvement. © CHERYL KINGThe goal of Makai Watch is to enhance the management of near-shore marine resources by providing community members opportunities to become directly involved in this management. In 2003, Hawai'i Wildlife Fund established Maui's first Makai Watch at Ahihi Kina'u Natural Area Reserve and Keoneo'i'o. In 2009, The state ranger’s program replaced Makai Watch there. HWF is currently on the Steering Committee and assisting in the State DLNR’s revision of the Makai Watch program structure.

> Maui Reef Fund

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Related Links
> Volunteer
> Turtles
> Seals
> Coral Reefs
> Marine Threats
HWF Maui Brochure - click to open PDF
> HWF Maui Brochure PDF
HWF Turtle Brochure - click to open PDF
> HWF Turtle Brochure PDF
Hawksbill Brochure PDF
> Hawksbill Brochure PDF

> Marine Debris Postcard

> Maui Beach Cleanups JPG
Sharkastics website
> Sharkastics website
Hawai'i Wildlife Fund    •   PO Box 790637 Paia, HI 96779   •   808.280.8124    •   •
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