Call for Action

Recognized as one of the most heavily impacted marine systems in the main Hawaiian Islands, Maunalua Bay needs help from our community now more than ever.

Over the past decades, the Maunalua Bay region has changed significantly from a rural to a highly urbanized community. The region now has an extensive network of paved roads, shopping centers, cemented streams and other impervious areas to support the 60,000 residents who call the area home. Maunalua Bay has been greatly affected by this growth, mainly due to an increase in polluted urban runoff, invasive species, and human uses.

What remains of Maunalua Bay’s resources today have an ecologic, economic and cultural importance for the people in the region. Many depend upon the Bay’s resources for jobs, food, recreation and more. However, Maunalua Bay is at a tipping point where ecosystem recovery can only be possible if the community acts now.

IMUA MAUNALUA, publicly launched on September 16, will bring the community together to develop and implement a comprehensive Marine Plan with actions to restore the Bay. Unprecedented in scale for an urban environment, IMUA MAUNALUA calls for broad, active community kuleana.

“The declining health of Maunalua Bay demands immediate action to revive the vitality of this bay that means so much to so many people in the community.”
— Alan Friedlander, Ph.D. University of Hawaii, Fisheries Ecology Research Lab

This community has already can come together in certain areas to show that a community effort makes a difference: at the Paiko Beach Restoration site at Kalauha‘iha‘i Fishpond and Kānewai Spring, at Paiko Lagoon, and at Ke‘awa‘awa, the spring-fed estuarine wetland connected to Kuapa Pond. With a rigorous Marine Plan such as IMUA MAUNALUA, our community can forge a path toward healing this much-loved Bay.

Open to everyone, the community-led IMUA MAUNALUA offers many ways to participate. All are invited to join the discussion today to improve the future of Maunalua Bay. Contact for more information.

All signs point to a damaged marine ecosystem that must be restored in order to bring back the wide range of species that once thrived in Maunalua Bay, including reef fish species, the rare and endemic Hawai‘i seagrass Halophila hawaiiana, and native reef algae species. Based on recent studies, Maunalua Bay’s current condition is poor, particularly when compared to other similar areas throughout the state:

  • Invasive alien algae smothers large areas of the near shore reef flat habitat, out-competing native algae and seagrass (Department of Land and Natural Resources, 2006).
  • Fish abundance and quality have declined drastically (Kittinger, 2011).
  • Overall catch size is small, average time to catch one fish is high, and a high percentage of fish are caught under the legal size (Maunalua Bay Pakini Survey, 2007-08).
  • Catch for preferred species has decreased 32-76%, according to fishers, with perceptions of decline more pronounced for fishers with a greater number of years fishing in the area (Figure 1) (Kittinger, 2011).
  • Lowest levels of total fish biomass, “target fish,” and prime spawners as compared to other sites monitored across the state (Figure 2) (The Nature Conservancy, 2014)
  • Substantial areas of the Bay are listed as impaired waters by the State Department of Health pursuant to the Clean Water Act.

For more information visit the Ecological Resources page.

Maunalua Bay is vital to our quality of life and our economy. Despite the decline in health, Maunalua Bay continues to:

  • Provide a venue for Maunalua-based marine tourism companies;
  • Remain a tourist attraction which supports other businesses in the region;
  • Support resources that recreational and commercial fishers depend on for household consumption, food sharing and income;
  • Protect our coastline community from natural hazards, such as hurricanes, storm surges, and sea level rise; and,
  • Offer a beautiful vista and recreation area that attracts people to reside in the region.

“Maunalua Bay is iconic to East Oahu. The health and beauty of Maunalua Bay is vital to not only the surrounding communities but the businesses that thrive within.”
—Chelsey Flanagan, Hawaii Kai Chamber of Commerce

For more information visit the Economical Resources page.

Maunalua Bay has a robust history and culture. Many of the place names in the region are derived from mo‘olelo ‘āina (stories of the land) that reaffirm the region’s deep cultural significance for Native Hawaiians. The name Maunalua means “two mountains,” referring to what is known today as Koko Head and Koko Crater. The area was long known for its abundance in fish and marine life, which made it ideal for the construction of loko i‘a (fishponds). The 523 acres of Kuapā or Maunalua Pond, formerly known as Keahupua o Maunalua (shrine of the baby mullet), was one of the largest fishponds in O‘ahu. This is just a glimpse of the deeply rooted history of the area surrounding Maunalua Bay.

IMUA MAUNALUA seeks to build upon the cultural significance of the region. Over the course of this project, we will work with the many organizations, agencies, Kupuna, and community members who are actively working to preserve and restore the rich culture of East Oahu. Please visit the resources page to visit their websites and learn more.

For more information visit the Cultural Resources page.