HONOLULU (KHON2) — A popular swimming spot on the north coast could become more protected like Hanauma Bay.
There are three Marine Conservation Districts on Oahu; Hanauma Bay, Waikiki and Pupukea.
Sharks Cove, Waimea Bay, Kapoo Tidal Pools and Three Tables are all part of the 100-acre Pupukea Marine Life Conservation District.
SB 3330 requires the Department of Lands and Natural Resources (DLNR) to establish and conduct a carrying capacity pilot project to help protect marine life in Pupukea.
Sharks Cove is one of the most visited places on the North Shore of Oahu and welcomes hundreds, if not thousands of visitors every day.
Hawaii Tourism Authority surveys have found that half of all visitors to Oahu visit the North Shore, and the protected beaches of the Pupukea Marine Life Conservation District are popular for swimming, snorkeling and diving.
Two of the most popular stops are Sharks Cove and Kapoo Tidal Pools, which are a rich nursery for over 50 species of sea life that replenish the entire Pupukea District and adjacent areas.
SB 3330 states that the number of daily visitors to the Area threatens the health and abundance of marine life in the Areas and limits the use and enjoyment of the Area by residents.
Years ago, few people stopped at Sharks Cove or the tidal pools, but like many places in Hawaii, they have become increasingly popular over the years.
“Once upon a time you could go in the water and it was crystal clear, nowadays on a busy summer day there is a lot of sunscreen floating in the water and when you come in the middle of day or afternoon, it’s cloudy,” Sen said. Gil Riviere (R) Kaneohe, Haleiwa, Kunia, who presented the bill.
“There are many gems on the North Shore, this region has been protected for decades, but is being loved to death,” Rivière continued.
When the pandemic strikesareas of the marine district were empty and researchers and marine conservation groups were able to study the negative impacts of humans on marine life.
“We were amazed at how quickly, in fact, in a single lunar cycle, marine life started bouncing around here at Sharks Cove. The most important thing we see here is the surface underwater, so most things in the ocean recover based on their ability to settle,” explained Jenny Yagodich, director of educational programs at Malama Pupukea Waimea.
She added that “when there are so many thousands of feet in the shallow water area per day, nothing has a chance to settle, recover and grow: corals, algae, things like that . And that’s the first thing we saw, algae recruitment.
Yagodich’s group clocks in on where they will come at a certain time of day and counts how many people are in the tidal pools or nearby Sharks Cove. She said the other day that she counted 200 people at Kapoo Tidepools.
Toxic sunscreen, harassment of marine life, and trampling of the reef also negatively impacts these areas.
Studies at Hanauma Bay have shown the negative human impact on marine life and measures have been added to restrict access to protect it. Hanauma Bay closes at 4:00 p.m. two days a week but when it is open it has a reservation system, mandatory education and parking fees.
Yagodich said on days when Hanauma is closed, more people tend to visit Sharks Cove.
“Hanauma is getting protection, they’re seeing a dramatic increase in the health of the marine environment. Here, unfortunately, there is no limit to the number of people who can come here, whether it is at the time of the day or the day of the week, it is a bit free for everyone here”, a- she declared.
Yagodich explained: “Ideally it would be amazing if all marine life conservation districts could have some sort of access restriction to maintain a balance and that’s really the premise behind SB 3330 is that the study would have an indication of what that level should be.
Senators Riviere and Yagodich said it was the perfect time to begin the pilot program as tourist numbers were down.
“The bill is currently set for three years, this will be a multi-year study to ensure that we get the right seasonal influx of visitors and the environmental impacts caused by sunscreen, people on the reef and tidal pools,” said Senator Rivière. . “This bill is an opportunity to find better management tools to love this place as much as you love Hanauma Bay.”
Like Hanauma Bay, Pupukea is meant to receive the highest level of protection for its marine and recreational resources.
A Waialua resident who visited the area on Saturday February 12 disagreed with the proposal. She said she had been going to the Pupukea area for decades and liked it because it was easily accessible.
“I haven’t been to Hanauma Bay in eight to 10 years, because of all it has become now, I’m not ok with paying for parking, watching the videos, I get it the reasoning behind it, but I disagree. I want that to happen here at Sharks Cove on our North Shore,” Sunshine Strum said.
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The DLNR supports Bill 3330 and wrote in its testimony that the pilot program would cost approximately $100,000 per year.