By: Corlyn Orr
One fireworm sting, hunched shoulders and aching lower backs, and tender, almost raw fingertips. A relatively short list of ailments for a roster of 50 volunteers that spent three hours harvesting nearly 5,000 pounds of invasive alien algae from Maunalua Bay.
From Monday through Friday, we are part of a land use and environmental planning team that toils tirelessly to design and plan better communities. We meet with clients and government representatives, conduct research, and prepare presentations, maps and reports. We are diligent with our project deadlines and strive for excellence. Yet, most of our work takes place in an office overlooking downtown Honolulu, where we rely on our intellectual aptitude and our fingertips to work computer keyboards that are used to craft emails and written reports.
One Saturday morning, in place of button-front aloha shirts and creased khakis, silk blouses, pencil skirts and high heels, Gail, Tom, Ryan and Corlyn (accompanied by their spouses and families) traded their professional office attire for board shorts, tank tops, tabis and work gloves. We put down our laptops, left our mobile phones at home, and spent the morning on the shallow reef fronting Hawai‘i Kai, on a mission to eradicate invasive alien algae that suffocates the native species and fish populations in Maunalua Bay. Working together with about 50 members from Hui Nalu Canoe Club and our host, Malama Maunalua, we pulled nearly 5,000 pounds of the scratchy, smelly, mud-covered algae from the bay. We shuttled across the channel in a black-and-yellow outrigger canoe, and for three hours, we crouched on the reef picking clumps of gorilla ogo, leather mudweed, and prickly seaweed from the mud, rocks and native seaweeds, trying to avoid the stinging fireworms and pinching crabs. Our fingers were sore, our backs were tired, and we were drained from being in the sun, but our spirits were energized by time spent on the water with new friends.
We were participating in a huki event organized by the non-profit group Malama Maunalua . In the Hawaiian language, huki means to pull or tug; as on a rope. Since 2007, Malama Maunalua has been organizing huki events to remove invasive alien algae from Maunalua Bay and educating residents to be stewards of the bay. In 2012 alone, more than 1,500 volunteers gave 4,300 hours to clear 27 tons of invasive alien algae from the bay and remove 15 tons of sediment and debris from drainage channels that empty into the bay.
Despite all the hard work, there are still pockets of heavily infested areas in Maunalua Bay that need to be cleared, and sediment flows such as mud and pollutants are still being directed into the bay . To learn more about protecting and restoring the health of Maunalua Bay, visit here.