The Honolulu City Council recently voted 9-0 in favor of legislation that would establish a “Keep Hawaii Hawaii” pledge for visitors. The intention of the bill was not to criticize or diminish the value of tourists and tourism. The purpose of the bill was to highlight the importance of protecting Hawaii’s cultural, environmental and wildlife assets like beaches, hiking trails, and all aspects of marine life.
In this regard, Hawaii’s state government deserves credit for its efforts to protect Hawaii’s most valuable land and marine resources. For example, the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources (DLNR-DAR) is partnering with the Arizona State University (ASU) Global Airborne Observatory to map land and ocean resources. Previously an ASU aircraft mapped thousands of acres of ohia forest around the state to help detect the presence of rapid ohia death, the fungal disease that has killed or injured Hawaii’s most abundant and important native trees. Now ASU’s high-tech airborne observatory, with the capability to see through seawater to a depth of 70 feet, is mapping Hawaii’s live coral and creating 3D images of every fish habitat around near-shore reefs in the islands.
This information is critical for Hawaii managing its near-shore reefs and developing strategies to help corals survive the impacts of climate change. In the past three to five years the most serious negative impact on live coral has been bleaching caused by heat waves, and not land-based pollution, overfishing or recreational tourism.