Kahalu‘u Bay in Kona is intensely used as a recreation area due to its ease of access and high coral and fish diversity. According to a County Lifeguard and UH Sea Grant Program count, Kahalu‘u Bay experiences over 400,000 users a year—just during peak daylight hours. Unfortunately, many visitors do not understand what coral is and how they can minimize their impact on coral and the other organisms found on the reef. Research has confirmed that overuse and trampling of live corals is degrading the ecosystem.
The ReefTeach Program at Kahalu‘u Bay aims to educate visitors and residents alike on how to avoid damaging corals and take care of turtles and reef animals. ReefTeach is a volunteer powered program that was initiated in 2000 by the University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College Program for West Hawaiʻi. In 2006 the U.H. Sea Grant College Program was joined by another strong partner, The Kohala Center, and ReefTeach has continued to expand into a visible, robust, and effective reef protection program.
Today, well-trained and dedicated ReefTeach volunteers of all ages educate visitors about what corals are, about the different types of fish and invertebrates in the bay, and about the ecology of the reef. They also inform visitors and residents of turtle basking behavior and help reduce disturbances to turtles in the bay.
Data collected during the program has proven the effectiveness of teaching snorkelers and swimmers to be non-destructive reef visitors. Our studies show that 80% of the users of the bay not taught by ReefTeachers will step and stand on coral. Of those taught by ReefTeachers, studies show that 20% will step on coral but only by accident for a few seconds in attempts to keep balance because of wave action.
Join Us! Become a volunteer, or contact Jean BevanMarquez for more information. Download our ReefTeach brochure.