December is often a time to reflect, and for the team at the Maui Ocean Center, this is particularly relevant as 2016 was a year of remembering the past as well as crafting a new path forward.
On March 12, the Aquarium of Hawaii celebrated 18 years of fostering understanding, wonder, and respect for Hawaii’s unique and beloved marine life. The celebration brought together many of the families that shaped the mission of the Maui Ocean Center with its deep passion for honoring Hawaii marine life and commitment to preserving it for future generations. The contribution of individuals like Uncle Charlie Maxwell, cultural adviser to the Maui Ocean Center until his passing in 2012, was instrumental in laying the foundation for much of the work carried on today.
The year also included many new beginnings, including a mauka-to-makai volunteer cleanup initiative by Maui Ocean Center employees, family members, and friends. The quarterly Malama: Land and Sea cleanups focused on removal of litter from the highways and roads surrounding Maalaea Harbor as well as offshore reef cleanups by the Maui Ocean Center Dive Team. Since spring 2015, the divers have collected over 1,400 pounds of abandoned fishing line, weights, tackle and other marine debris off McGregor Point.
Other firsts included participation in the International Union for Conservation of Nature, held for the first time in the United States. Maui’s environmental community was well represented at the nine-day conference, which brought together over 8,000 delegates from 184 countries, and saw the expansion of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument and the unveiling of the Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute (MOCMI). Like the monument expansion, MOCMI will focus on efforts that sustain, preserve and protect Hawaii marine life and the environment.
MOCMI’s purpose is founded on three pillars: establishing a program that rehabilitates and releases rescued threatened and endangered sea turtles; creating and maintaining a facility that will serve as a repository for rare and endemic Hawaiian corals, and providing educational opportunities at all levels to inspire individuals to pursue careers in marine sciences.
And as exciting as these larger efforts and initiatives are, it is often the daily choices we make that have the greatest impact. As we move forward into the new year with all its possibilities, here are five things you can do to ensure a brighter 2017 and make it one to remember positively:
• Eat at the 17 Platinum Level Ocean Friendly-certified restaurants in Hawaii, such as Choice Health Bar in Lahaina and Seascape at Maalaea Harbor. The Ocean Friendly Restaurant Hawaii program is managed by the Surfrider Foundation in partnership with Maui Huliau Foundation, Kokua Hawaii Foundation and the Rise Above Plastics Coalition. Platinum restaurants are leaders in the Ocean Friendly movement and meet eight different criteria for reducing plastic use.
• Ditch the sunscreen and cover up instead. Despite all the hope of reef-safe sunscreens, the reality is that it’s about scale. No matter which product you use, all of it eventually washes off and lands on the sea floor or reef. Worldwide estimates are 4,000 to 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen wash off swimmers’ bodies annually with the potential to suffocate fragile reefs. The simpler solution is rash guards that not only last all day (you only have to buy once), plus they come in all different colors and designs.
• Eliminate use of single plastic bottles. Simple, easy and overdue.
• Volunteer just once this year. There are so many nonprofits in Maui who need just one. Be a hero, say yes.
• Reflect daily. Incorporating a habit of asking why, when and how will help steer you on a course of intention. Tomorrow is full of promise, but what we have is today. Live it and live it well.