Kapo‘o, also known as Sharks Cove, is part of the Pūpūkea Marine Life Conservation District, a protected area that provides fish and other aquatic species with a safe place to grow and reproduce. This unique area is a critical habitat for a diverse array of marine life including dozens of species of fish, a multitude of invertebrates, sharks, sea turtles, and even the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal.
In the three and a half decades this area has been protected, there has been a steady increase in visitors who come to swim and snorkel. That number has more than doubled in the past couple of years alone – until recently during the shutdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Although devastating for so many, our natural ecosystems got a much-needed break and have bounced back in unimaginable ways. In areas like Kapo‘o, thousands of people can have a negative effect on the marine environment. From feet causing coral-killing erosion to devastating amounts of toxic sunscreen chemicals, these fragile reef habitats have been on the unfortunate brink of destruction.
From March 202 to about October 2020, the marine environment saw a marked increase in health and abundance – proving it’s resilience, and proving human-use is a significant factor in an area’s ability to thrive and flourish.
“Here in the MLCD, we’ve noticed algae starting to form on rocks in the tide pools where they are usually stepped on by thousands of feet. These algae are the basis of the food chain in the ocean so having them present again is a good thing for the ecosystem” said Jenny Yagodich, Director of Educational Programs for Mālama Pūpūkea-Waimea this past May. “We have seen a marked increase in the amount of juvenile fish in the tide pools as well. Juvenile Manini (Convict Tang) numbers in the tide pool area have gone up from 20-30 in January 2020 to 100-200 in May 2020”.
We used the rare opportunity of less people to aggressively document and monitor the marine life specifically within the tide pool area of Kapo’o. We will be publishing a report soon that highlights the vast array of fish, invertebrates, limu, and other species that call Kapo’o home.
Now, as we have moved into reopening our parks and beaches, we all have the opportunity to help our near-shore environment continue to improve. We know it can bounce back fairly quickly, but it can also decline rapidly as well.
Here are some best practices and ways you can help keep our near-shore environment healthy:
- Float, don’t stand – step only in sandy areas when necessary. Submerged rocks are covered in microscopic marine life. Stepping on them kills algae, coral, and other species.
- Keep your distance from marine life. Getting too close changes their behavior. Touching or moving marine life can injure or kill them. It is actually illegal to do so within the MLCD.
- Only use sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Chemicals like oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octinoxate are proven to cause substantial harm to corals and coral reefs. Wearing a rash guard or sun shirt helps reduce the need for sunscreen.
- Pick up trash. Mahalo!