HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the first time in 18 years, researchers at Hanauma Bay are trying to determine how much damage visitors are doing to the bay’s fragile ecosystem.
Researchers with the University of Hawaii’s Hawaii Institute for Marine Biology say they’re now beginning to document the impacts that the bay’s 3,500 daily visitors are having on its coral system.
“We are seeing (coral) breakage in areas that are most heavily snorkeled," said Sarah Severino, an HIMB researcher.
The study is in the early stages and it could be a while before scientists have enough data on whether the city should reduce the number of visitors to Hanauma Bay.
But advocates, who have been calling for such a study for more a decade, said it’s a good start.
“It’s time we take a look and see what kind of impact visitors are having on Hanauma Bay," said Lisa Bishop, president of the Friends of Hanauma Bay.
"If the carrying capacity study comes out and says Hanauma Bay can handle 25,000 people a day at least we have science to support that. If it comes out and says we should be sticking more to 3,000 or 4,000 people a day, then we have science to back that up as well.”
The study is funded by the city. Department of Parks and Recreation spokesman Nathan Serota said that the report will “certainly act as a good reference if improvements to operations or policies at the nature preserve are needed to preserve the wildlife or better manage human impacts to the bay.”