Friday, May 07, 2010

reef cleanup or try to educate people?

Third post update.

Patrick sent the link to the "Tapped" movie preview.


Second post update.

Blog reader Philipp from Germany sent me an email pointing out that there's a movie called "Hawaii message in the waves" that you can watch on youtube in 5 parts.
I saw the movie already many years ago, check what point 7 of my 10 little things to try to help the environment is:

7. Whenever possible I pick up trash, especially from beaches. I've always done that while teaching at Kanaha, but since I saw the movie "Hawaii a message in the waves", I try to do it everywhere. I love nature and animals and I just can't stand the thought that all that trash will eventually kill a bird or a fish or a turtle.

What I didn't know is that the movie is now online. Posted on May 1st 2009, I can't believe Part 1 has only been seen 643 times... let's pump that number up guys! Post it on Facebook, forums, blogs, let's spread this thing as much as possible... it's an awesome movie!

Here's part 1. I may post the other parts too later on, but you don't have to wait for me to watch them...

PS. Michael Jackson's Pepsi commercial has been seen 11 million times instead... a bit depressing isn't it?


First post update.
Blog reader Wim from Belgium read the post and sent me this photo of him drinking water from a reusable/refillable container. I'm super happy to post it. Keep sending them, I'll post them all!
My email is on the right where the banners are. Thanks!


After I did that post about the broken gear I found on the reef, I thought about emailing marine biologist James Douglas about the subject, also because he happens to be a windsurfer who also has a blog .

Here's the questions I sent him:
1) what's the impact of broken gear laying on the bottom of the ocean (specifically on reefs)?

2) how would you compare it to other polluting things that windsurfers do?
My guess is that the process of manufacturing the gear pollutes way more than ditching a broken mast...
To me it also seems that having all those plastic bits floating around and getting eaten by birds and fish is way more harmful to the environment too.

In other words, buying and not recycling unnecessary plastic seems a lot worse then specific windsurfing pollution.

In other more clear words, I think that buying an unnecessary new plastic water bottle instead of refilling a proper water container is a more polluting act than ditching a piece of broken mast (in a life danger situation). Also because maybe a broken mast maybe happens once or twice a year, while I keep seeing windsurfers using and disposing plastic water/soda bottles daily...

3) do you think that organizing a reef cleanup would be an effective way of helping the reef?

Here's the email he kindly replied with (thanks a lot!):

Hi Giampaolo,

I liked that blog post. It’s cool how you’ve turned your camera eye to the underwater environment at Kanaha. From the pictures it looks like mostly rock and coral rubble covered with algae- not much live coral. I have no idea if the reef was always like that, or if there was more live coral in the past. The general trend on reefs all over the world is declining % cover of live coral and increasing % cover of algae. That is bad because without the growth of live coral there is no creation of new coral rock to replace the rock lost to erosion. Without live coral, the entire structure of the reef will eventually disappear, leaving no place for animals to live, and no protection of the shoreline from storm waves.

The main human disturbances that can turn live coral reefs into dead, algae-covered reefs are:

1) Excess nutrients and sediment coming from human activities on the land, because they interfere with the growth of coral, promote the growth of algae, and exacerbate coral diseases.

2) Overfishing, which can reduce numbers of the herbivorous fish and urchins that are needed control the algae. Even if the algae-eating animals are not directly reduced by fishing, they can be indirectly reduced by changes in the food chain that occur when predatory fishes like sharks and groupers are removed.

3) Changes in ocean temperature and acidity related to global warming. High temperatures cause coral bleaching, which is when the corals have to vomit out the microscopic algae they use to create food. If the corals stay bleached too long they starve to death. Increasing acidity is a product of excess carbon dioxide absorbing into the ocean and reacting to form carbonic acid. Carbonic acid lowers the pH of the water and makes it harder for corals and other animals to form shell and skeletal materials. It also increases the rate that coral rock erodes away.

4) Direct physical disturbances to the reef like anchoring, mining, walking on, net entanglement, etc. Windsurfing gear could potentially fall into this category, too. If a lot of it was banging around the reef it could kill the live corals. And a shredded sail tangled around a coral head could literally smother the coral.

The worldwide impact of lost windsurfing gear on coral reefs is probably very, very small compared to the other harmful impacts on reefs and compared to the broader impacts of windsurfing gear manufacturing and stuff like I described in my windsurfing magazine article. However, at a major windsurfing spot like Hookipa or Kanaha the harmful effect of lost gear could certainly be enough to justify a reef cleanup, so I encourage you to organize one if you are so inclined. Keep working on people to not drink out of disposable containers, too, since bottles and cans are a huge part of the plastic ocean trash problem, and even when you think you’re recycling something it can still find its way into the ocean.

Good luck!

Comparing the images included in an article he also attached, I'm now 99% sure that the reef at Kanaha is mostly dead already, since it's largely covered by algae. Not sure about Hookipa, will check it out next non windy day.
So, rather than investing my time trying to organize a reef cleanup that would probably be quite inefficient (meaning, we would still leave tons of stuff that we wouldn't see and it's highly possible that it would not be particularly beneficial for the reef since it's dead already), I'm going to invest it in keep trying to educate people to do things in an environment friendly way.

You guys remember this 10 little things I do to try to respect the environment post I did three years ago?

Well, I still do that.
(actually, to be precise, my stick shift car died and now I have an automatic transmission one, but still decent on gas!)

Here's a photo I posted a in another post a few months later.

And here's another one I used in another post in 2009.

Guess what? I still have and use both those metal bottles and that bag. How many plastic bottles and bags did I spare the environment of?
A hell lot, I guess. And that feels good. But it's nothing, since way too many people keeps buying plastic bottles and using plastic bags.

This is a well done animation. I especially like the sentence: "Carrying bottled water is on its way to being as cool as smoking while pregnant".

So, other than trying to remove broken masts from an already dead reef, I'm gonna try to do good for the environment giving you shit if I see you at the beach with a plastic bottle!

Everyone's warned.


Sergey Menshikov said...

The action of reef cleanup, depending on who it involves and how it is covered, could have more impact by raising environmental awareness than the actual results of cleaning. Just my 2c.

cammar said...

great point!

Anonymous said...

As Maui's resident I must say that this island is far away from being paradise.
I experience road rage on a daily basis, in Paia is almost impossible to park, gas is expensive, food is insanely expensive, there is lack of jobs, and most of all this island is filthy.
Developers seem do not care and keep on building and polluting.
And people talk and talk and talk about environment but none is taking actions.
I am done, I took the painful decision to move, cannot afford it anymore.
I would like to see people who talk to take some steps and organize an "Hawaii Coral Reef Day" or a "Day at the Beach to Preserve the Coral."
"The Nature Conservancy launched its Hawaii’s Marine Program in 2002 to help preserve the Islands’ remarkable marine diversity. The Conservancy’s efforts are focused on restoring the health of our magnificent coral reefs and the unique species that depend on them for their survival.” (
Harvesting of aquamarine life is one of the reasons that affect the health of our coral reef. In fact with a $ 50 permit a collector can net as many fish as he/she wants. The loss of fish can lead to a overgrowth of algae which suffocate the coral reef.
On June 1, 1998 Governor Benjamin J. Cayetano approved a rule which establishes new regulations on fishing for certain deep water snappers and groupers commonly called bottomfish in Hawaii .The purpose of this chapter is to regulate the fisheries on the islands. If you are interested in the new regulations they are contained in Hawai’i Administrative Rule Chapter 13-94.
There is the "super sucker reef clearing" which removes invasive algae acting as a underwater vacuum cleaner that can remove up to 800 pounds of algae in one hour.
The fact is that the community does not care. Surf's up.....everyone is out surfing 7 hours, what the purpose...I do not get it....I understand work, kids.....
I talked to several friends who do not work much in order to organize an awareness day but they are busy with internet, burning dvd's, dinner parties. I do not have much time, I have a family I have to pay bills and at 8:30 I am in bed, wake up at 5:30 to get the kids ready for least we do not pollute, grow an organic garden, and banned plastic bags 6 years ago.
I do believe that this island is empty, not empty of people, but empty of love and care. Individuals' needs are above all the rest, and if surf's up who cares about the reef dying.
If someone really cares out there please put your ideals before your personal needs.
I am moving (Portland the greenest city in the US), I'll keep you posted.

Chris Freeman said...

Great Hawaii video, as requested I have posted on my Blog ( and FB. I watched the first 10 min this morning at work and can't wait to get home and watch all on big TV at home. Hope you are well, we will be seeing you soon. Chris

Anonymous said...

What a dreadful indictment on Maui from Anonymous. It makes me so sad to read about something so bad about an island that is so beautiful. I have seen the original film and was horrified when I saw the debris which is washed up daily from all over the world. I was saddened when I watched a documentary here in England on The Tropic of Cancer and it finished on "the filthiest place in the world" Hawaii. Go GP go and try to get people involved in your fight on cleaning up the island. I'll never get back to see it but I would hate to think it might die some day.