Earth & Sea: Bay Education

Elizabeth Kumabe
Elizabeth Kumabe

EAST OAHU (KHNL) -- In an effort to better protect the bay, the park began limiting the number of daily visitors back in 2002.

That's when the Marine Education Center opened its doors here.

Long regarded as a "must see" attraction, Hanauma Bay ultimately became a victim of its own beauty with more than three milion visitors every year.

But with those great numbers, came great damage to the bay's once pristine eco-system.

The result was a master plan that not only limited the number of daily visitors, but also ensured all who entered the bay, understood their responsibility to help it.

"It's important to not walk on or touch the reef. In all the dark stuff in the water, all the hard stuff is reef," said a volunteer.

Today, everyone who enters the park, passes through the education center where they hear from volunteers, and watch a short film.

"It has made a tremendous difference in how we've actually had visitors come into the bay and how they view the bay," said Elizabeth Kumabe with the Hanauma Bay Education Pogram.

Kumabe says through education, visitors gain not only a better appreciation of the sea life they enjoy up close and personal, they get a better understanding of how human interaction can affect the undersea world.

"We want them to know that when they come here they really are becoming part of the environment because they are part of protecting the environment and caring for it so stewardship is a big thing," said Kumabe. "They're coming here to enjoy the environment so lets learn how to take care of it."

According to marine biologists who study this gift of nature, the education appears to be working.

"The health of the reef is wonderful right now," said Kumabe. "It used to be trampled by people standing on the reef. People learn that they have an impact and they're environmental footprint, if they can reduce that, then they have a better chance of keeping our reef alive and keeping our resources alive."