North Shore Residents Spring into Action to Protect Marine Life Refuge

Michael & Helen Cawthraw
Michael & Helen Cawthraw
Butch Helemano
Butch Helemano

Pupukea, Oahu (KHNL)--It's easy to see why so many people visit Sharks Cove in Pupukea on Oahu's north shore.

"We saw a few whales which was amazing cause I never seen that before either. There's all these little fish and crabs and sea urchins and stuff all through the rocks and it's just amazing," said Michael and Helen Cawthraw who are visiting from Australia.

Sharks Cove is one of the most visited areas on Oahu. Every day, snorklers and scuba divers get upclose with the colorful fish but this marine life conservation district wasn't always teeming with life.

"When I was a kid you'd see so many fish in the ocean," said Butch Helemano. "Today, sadly there's been a drastic decline in fish due to illegal fishing. The loss of life in the waters is what prompted me to take a stand and help protect fish for future generations."

Every Saturday, Helemano and other long-time North Shore residents like Bob Leinau are out making sure beach goers know the rules.

"We have a tent set up for people to come by and learn about the the marine life and what they can do to respect the fish and the coral. In a marine life conservation district, you should take nothing except memories and pictures," said Leinau.

The residents contacted Community Conservation Network for help and got the funding needed to establish a watch and awareness program.

Their hard work paid off. Since the program launched, volunteers noticed a significant change in the ocean.

"There's more fish in this area now than there was thirty years ago," Helemano said.

While the fish population grows, volunteers realize they haven't completely stopped the problem. Pole fishermen and spear fishermen still come to Sharks Cove. Helemano says the only solution is to keep on educating everyone who visits the area.

"If we didn't have protected areas like this, there would be no fish for future generations. It is up to us. It is our 'kuliana' or responsibility or duty to make sure that we protect areas like this," said Helemano.

Oahu is not the only island receiving help from the Community Conservation Network.

Residents passionate about restoring the environment are also receiving funding to establish similar watch and awareness programs in Palau, Indonesia, the Federated States of Micronesia and Papua New Guinea.