Hanauma Bay is recovering. Some want to limit crowds to further protect it.

At Hanauma Bay, a push to limit crowds even after the park reopens

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Conservationists are pushing for an online reservation system for Hanauma Bay to reduce the number of visitors and protect the bay’s ecosystem.

Steven Depaoli, former docent of the nature preserve, is among those who supports an online reservation system for visitors once the bay reopens. Depaoli said they’re looking for a total reset to the operation.

“And so the reservation system is one way in trying to control the numbers, educate the people better,” said Depaoli, noting that parking would also continue to be limited and a video would still be required.

“And with the coronavirus, the other thing we should be thinking about it is rather than having 1,110 people crammed into a movie theater with the doors closed.”

For the past three years, Sarah Severino, research technician of UH Manoa’s Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, said they’ve been working with the city to identify indicators of stress to the bay’s environment.

“Figure out what the stressors are so that we can minimize them so that we can make the ecosystem stronger to what we can’t change like global climate change because we can control what the visitors are doing,” said Severino.

Since the city closed the bay in the spring because of the pandemic, Severino said the future of the ecosystem looks promising. She adds that it’s now at 64% clearer visibility and they’re seeing larger fish.

“So by putting something in like a reservation system we have a chance to rehab the bay and bring it back to its pristine condition and then make it sustainable that way,” said Depaoli.

Department of Parks and Recreation Director Michele Nekota said they support any measure that could help improve the preserve’s conservation mission while also enhancing the visitor experience.

Nekota said in a statement:

“We are currently exploring the logistics of a reservation system described in Resolution 20-207, and how it would impact the various elements of Hanauma Bay. It is important to remember that operations at the preserve are maintained through admittance fees paid by malihini (newcomer) who visit Hanauma Bay. We are simultaneously working on raising more of those funds through increased malihini and commercial operation fees at the bay, while keeping admission free for locals.”

The bay was closed March 18 because of the pandemic. There is no set reopening date.

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