WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) - The reef at Olowalu is the largest and best developed on Maui, and it is a spawning ground that has helped populate reefs around Maui, Molokai and Lanai.
But decades of runoff and recent coral bleaching events have taken their toll on the sprawling marine hub.
The Maui News reports the Olowalu reef was designated Thursday as a Mission Blue Hope Spot. The reef is the first in the state to receive the title.
Mission Blue founder and oceanographer Sylvia Earle created the designation with the hopes of bringing awareness and support to places that Mission Blue deems "critical to the health of the ocean."
Mission Blue is a California-based organization that works to promote ocean exploration and research and protect marine life.
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