Caring in Times of Crisis

Author: Heather Walters

As a global community, we’re facing unprecedented times. The COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic is a crisis unlike anything we’ve seen in recent history, and it has unfortunately made its mark on our neighborhoods in Hawai‘i. Our shared commitment to the health and safety of ourselves and each other remains one of the few constants in the midst of so much day-to-day uncertainty.

At The Aquarium of Hawai‘i, our kuleana (responsibility) extends to the marine life under our care as well. We’re navigating through uncharted waters and hope to re-open when the right conditions allow. Until then, two teams are hard at work behind-the-scenes.

Harry of team Manō assesses exhibits for improvements.

The curators, divers, and aquarists that comprise our Curatorial department have divided into A and B squads to ensure continuous care for MOC’s ocean inhabitants. These two teams have zero direct interaction as they work opposite schedules and make health their top priority by following best practices set forth by state and federal authorities. In this way, if one team were to become compromised, the other could step in.

It’s no easy task, and despite the seriousness with which they approach the well-being of MOC’s marine life and each other’s health, they’ve lightened the mood by giving themselves team names: team Manō (shark) and team Honu (turtle).

They’re making good use of the Aquarium’s closure to revamp marine environments and assess various exhibits for updates and improvements. There’s a lot of work to do, but they’re not entirely without help. Animals such as convict tangs, cleaner shrimp, and goldring surgeonfish help them with their cleaning duties by keeping algae growth at bay throughout the Aquarium.

A goldring surgeonfish grazes for algae at MOC’s Living Reef exhibit.

From the shallow, coastal surge zones to deep reef habitats, Maui’s marine life is the living connection between Hawai‘i, its people, and the natural environment. During this time of social distancing, we’ll be virtually checking in on our ocean friends as teams Manō & Honu continue operations diligently, even in these uncertain times.

We’d like to extend a big MAHALO to our dedicated curatorial team for continuing to ensure the health and safety of the marine animals under our care, as well as to all of the health professionals working tirelessly on the frontlines all over the world to keep us safe. Mahalo nui loa and mālama kekahi i kekahi, let’s take care of one another!

Written by Heather Walters. “Ka Mo‘olelo Moana,” or “The Ocean Story,” is a monthly column written by Maui Ocean Center.

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