Projects : NOAA Habitat Blueprint: West Hawaiʻi Habitat Focus Area

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Introduction

The NOAA Habitat Blueprint program provides a forward looking framework for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to think and act strategically across programs and with partner organizations to address the growing challenge of coastal and marine habitat loss and degradation. Habitat Focus Areas are targeted places where NOAA is collaborating with communities to measurably improve the environment through NOAA’s mission of science, service, and stewardship. The West Hawaiʻi Habitat Focus Area (HFA) is located on the northwestern coast of the island of Hawaiʻi between Kailapa, which is just north of Kawaihae Harbor, and Makolea Point, which is just south of Kekaha Kai State Park. The focus area incorporates a wide range of ecosystems, from coral reefs to upland forests, in order to comprehensively create a more resilient landscape. Multiple NOAA and state programs have identified West Hawaiʻi as a priority conservation site and numerous organizations are working together to manage and restore it. This area is also home to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (HIHWNMS), NOAA Hawaiʻi Island Sentinel Site, National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) Kona Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (KIEA), NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Priority Site, and the Presidential Resilient Lands and Water Initiative.

West Hawaii Map

West Hawaiʻi is one of ten NOAA Habitat Focus Areas across the U.S..

The northwestern coast of the island of Hawaiʻi is a unique habitat known for its clear waters and vibrant coral reefs. In fact, West Hawaiʻi contains one of the state’s longest contiguous coral reefs, supporting an abundance of corals and fish, of which nearly a quarter are found nowhere else in the world. In addition, a diversity of ecosystem types converge in this area including lava fields, small sand beaches, anchialine ponds, and lowland dry forests. From its highly significant cultural sites to its thriving resort industry, West Hawaiʻi is important to the region’s economy, history, culture, and environment. However, the area and its marine resources are being impacted by a variety of human activities including climate change, erosion and sedimentation, eutrophication, wildlife interactions and fishing pressures. NOAA offices and programs in the Pacific Islands Region are working with federal and state agencies, local communities, non-profit organizations and businesses to improve ocean health in the West Hawaiʻi HFA. Pooling resources and focusing efforts in this area can make a larger collective impact toward creating a more resilient landscape around the shared goals of healthy reefs, abundant fisheries, and thriving communities.

West Hawaii Aerial

West Hawaiʻi Habitat Focus Area. Credit: Chad Wiggins.

If you have questions or comments about the resources and information contained on these pages please contact Lani Watson, NOAA Marine Habitat Resource Specialist (Lani.Watson@noaa.gov). Find out more about NOAA’s Habitat Blueprint program.

What is the purpose of this Initiative?

NOAA’s West Hawaiʻi HFA works with partners from across different levels of state and federal government, local communities, NGOs, and other stakeholders to tackle key problems affecting the local marine environment and coastal communities. The West Hawaiʻi Habitat Focus Area initiated projects in October 2014 and expects to demonstrate results by October 2019. The primary goals of the West Hawaiʻi Habitat Focus Area are to improve coral reef habitat, foster the sustainable use of marine resources, and improve local capacity for long-term management of natural resources. To accomplish these goals, our specific objectives are to:

  • Improve coral health through the reduction of land-based pollutants, such as sediments and nutrients.
  • Reduce vulnerability of communities (human and natural) to localized effects of climate change.
  • Ensure that communities are informed and contribute to the sustainable use and restoration of natural resources.
  • Provide better management tools and easily accessible information to promote informed decisions.
Puako

Puakō Shoreline. Credit: M. Tartt.

How did this initiative grow?

West Hawaiʻi was selected as a NOAA Habitat Focus Area because of its extensive reef system, tangible threats, ongoing conservation efforts and strong community involvement.

Coral Bleaching

Environmental challenges: 2015 coral bleaching in West Hawaiʻi. Credit: Jon Martinez.


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Overview

The leeward—or west—side of Hawaiʻi Island (Big Island) is known for white sandy beaches and coral reefs that make it a popular destination for snorkeling, diving, and fishing. The region includes a variety of ecosystems including watersheds, anchialine pool systems, dry-land forest, and coral reefs. There are several species of concern in the area that are important to Hawaiʻi’s economy, culture, and environment. For example, South Kohala contains one of the longest contiguous coral reefs in the state. Nearly a quarter of the corals and fish that live along this coast are found nowhere else in the world. Endangered or threatened species found in this area include:

  • Hawaiian monk seals
  • humpback whales
  • false killer whales
  • green sea turtles

The South Kohala district is one of the fastest growing areas on the Big Island and development is on the rise. Land uses include resort areas and very popular beaches. This means striking a delicate balance between the needs of humans and those of the natural resources. West Hawaiʻi’s natural resources are also threatened by land-based pollution and sediment, aquarium fishing, drought, fires, and invasive species.

Within 3-5 years, research objectives of the West Hawaiʻi Focus Area include:

  • Reduce sediment and measurably improve the condition of priority coastal targets.
  • Prevent new introductions and manage existing non-native and invasive species.
  • Establish at least one community co-managed area (CCA) in South Kohala.
  • Engage communities in managing all six target coastal resources in the region.

In the longterm, research objectives include:

  • Reduce sediments and nutrients in nearshore areas.
  • Ensure healthy fish populations and improve fisheries.
  • Establish two additional community co-managed areas (CCAs) in South Kohala.

For more information, contact Lani Watson Lani.Watson@noaa.gov, NOAA Marine Habitat Resource Specialist.

Data

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3 nmi: Three Nautical Mile Limit

Credit: Hawaiʻi Statewide GIS Program

The three nautical mile (3 nmi) limit refers to a traditional and now largely obsolete maritime boundary that defined a country’s territorial waters, for the purposes of trade regulation and exclusivity, as extending as far as the reach of cannons fired from land. In its place, the Territorial Sea boundary at 12 nmi was established as the international norm by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS, WFS, metadata

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Anchialine Pools

Credit: TNC

Anchialine pools are defined as brackish pools along the coast that are separated from the ocean, but show tidal fluctuations via underground ocean connections. These are typically located in young lava substrate or limestone karst on older islands. Anchialine pools often support unique biota that are poorly understood and species that are tolerant of varying salinities. These include species that have adapted to a partially subterranean habitat offered by groundwater under the pools.

Compiled by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to assist ecoregional and conservation action planning in Hawai‘i, this point dataset represents known anchialine pool complexes in the Main Hawaiian Islands as of 2008. A single point may represent one or more individual pools in the general area. Sources include the Hawai‘i Biodiversity Mapping Program’s Natural Heritage database (2008) and their paper files on the anchialine pool natural communities. Additionally, data were collected from the following publications: Aquatic Survey of the Kona Coast Ponds by Maciolek and Brock (1974), Anchialine Resources in Two Hawai‘i State Natural Area Reserves by Brock (2004), and Evaluation of Anchialine Pools in the Awakee, Kohanaiki, and Makalawena Land Divisions, North Kona by Maciolek (1987). Anchialine pool experts and conservationists that were consulted include Scott Santos (University of Auburn), David Chai, David Foote, Mike Yamamoto, Tom Iwai, Sam Gon, Lisa Marreck, Mariska Weijerman, Kelly Kozar, Lorena Wada, Matt Ramsey, Bob Kinzie, and John Ford. Users are cautioned that some of the pool locations are based on 10-30 year old observations.

Please Note: For public consumption, this anchialine pool layer cannot be displayed or selectable closer than 1:100,000 scale. This is to prevent trespassing on anchialine pools, especially those on private lands.

For data and further information, please contact Stephanie Tom (stom@tnc.org), TNC’s conservation information manager for Hawai‘i. For further details on the TNC’s ecoregional planning in Hawai‘i, see: http://www.hawaiiecoregionplan.info

Data access: please contact Stephanie Tom, The Nature Conservancy Conservation Information Manager for Hawai‘i

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Bathymetry (HMRG 50-m)

Credit: Hawaiʻi Mapping Research Group

A 50-m resolution gridded synthesis of all available bathymetry (ocean depth) data for the main Hawaiian islands, including ship-borne multibeam sonar surveys.

Data access: NetCDF, KML, WMS, WCS, OPeNDAP, THREDDS, ERDDAP, LAS, Voyager, metadata

Hillshade access: KML, WMS-C (layer: “hi_hmrg_all_bathy50m_hillshade”), WMS, WCS, metadata

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Benthic Habitats: Biological Cover Types

Credit: NOAA NCCOS

Benthic habitat map for biological cover in the nearshore, shallow (< 30 m) coastal waters of Hawaiʻi Island. NOAA produced maps like these across the Main Hawaiian Islands to support coral reef research and to enable development of products that support management needs and questions (more info ). Thirty-two distinct benthic habitat types (i.e., 4 major and 14 detailed geomorphological structure classes; 8 major and 3 detailed biological cover types) within 13 zones were digitally mapped in GIS (geographic information system) using heads-up visual interpretation of orthorectified satellite imagery.

Eighteen distinct and non-overlapping biological cover types were identified that could be mapped through visual interpretation of the satellite imagery. Habitats or features that cover areas smaller than the minimal mapping unit of 1 acre were not considered. For example, uncolonized sand halos surrounding coral patch reefs are too small to be mapped independently. Cover type refers only to the predominant biological component colonizing the surface of the feature and does not address location (e.g., on the shelf or in the lagoon). The cover types are defined in a collapsible hierarchy ranging from eight major classes (live coral, seagrass, macroalgae, encrusting/coralline algae, turf algae, emergent vegetation, uncolonized, and unknown), combined with a density modifier representing the percentage of the predominant cover type (10%-<50% sparse, 50%-<90% patchy, 90%-100% continuous).

Data access: Shapefile , WMS (style: “benthic_habitats_biology”), WFS, metadata

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Benthic Habitats: Geographic Zones

Credit: NOAA NCCOS

Benthic habitat map for geographic zones in the nearshore, shallow (< 30 m) coastal waters of Hawaiʻi Island. NOAA produced maps like these across the Main Hawaiian Islands to support coral reef research and to enable development of products that support management needs and questions (more info ). Thirty-two distinct benthic habitat types (i.e., 4 major and 14 detailed geomorphological structure classes; 8 major and 3 detailed biological cover types) within 13 zones were digitally mapped in GIS (geographic information system) using heads-up visual interpretation of orthorectified satellite imagery.

Thirteen mutually exclusive zones were identified from land to open water corresponding to typical insular shelf and coral reef geomorphology. These zones include: shoreline intertidal, vertical wall (none identified), lagoon, back reef, reef flat, reef crest, fore reef, bank/shelf, bank/shelf escarpment, channel, dredged (since this condition eliminates natural geomorphology), unknown, and land. Zone refers only to each benthic community's location and does not address substrate or cover types within. For example, the lagoon zone may include patch reefs, sand, and seagrass beds; however, these are considered structural elements that may or may not occur within the lagoon zone and therefore, are not used to define it.

Data access: Shapefile , WMS (style: “benthic_habitats_geography”), WFS, metadata

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Benthic Habitats: Geomorphological Structure Types

Credit: NOAA NCCOS

Benthic habitat maps for geomorphological structure types in the nearshore, shallow (< 30 m) coastal waters of Hawaiʻi Island. NOAA produced maps like these across the Main Hawaiian Islands to support coral reef research and to enable development of products that support management needs and questions (more info ). Thirty-two distinct benthic habitat types (i.e., 4 major and 14 detailed geomorphological structure classes; 8 major and 3 detailed biological cover types) within 13 zones were digitally mapped in GIS (geographic information system) using heads-up visual interpretation of orthorectified satellite imagery.

Fourteen distinct and non-overlapping geomorphological structure types were identified that could be mapped by visual interpretation of the satellite imagery. Habitats or features that cover areas smaller than the minimal mapping unit of 1 acre were not considered. For example, sand halos surrounding patch reefs are too small to be mapped independently. Structure refers only to the predominant physical structural composition of the feature and does not address location (e.g., on the shelf or in the lagoon). The structure types are defined in a collapsible hierarchy ranging from four major classes (coral reef and hardbottom, unconsolidated sediment, other delineations, and unknown), to thirteen detailed classes (sand, mud, spur and groove, individual and aggregated patch reef, aggregate reef, scattered coral/rock in unconsolidated sediment, pavement, rock/boulder (volcanic and carbonate), reef rubble, pavement with sand channels, artificial, and unknown).

Data access: Shapefile , WMS (style: “benthic_habitats_geomorphology”), WFS, metadata

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Coastal Water Quality Monitoring Sites

Credit: NOAA Habitat Blueprint

The relative resilience of coral reef sites was assessed at two depths in 2015, 2016, and 2017 (note: this map layer only includes the shallow locations). The surveys were conducted as a collaborative effort by SymbioSeas, Hawaiʻi Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), NOAA Coral Reef Ecosystem Program (CREP), and community organizations.

For more information, please contact Jonathan Martinez (jonathan.martinez@noaa.gov).

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS, WFS, metadata

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Coral Distribution

Credit: Erik Franklin et al. (2013)

Erik Franklin, Paul Jokeil, and Megan Donahue (2013) studied the shallow seafloor of the eight Main Hawaiian Islands at depths between 0 and 30 meters to map the benthic cover of six coral species. From diver surveys and benthic cover databases, Franklin et al. (2013) used statistical distribution models to estimate coral distribution based on the following factors: depth, island age, significant wave height, downwelled irradiance, rugosity, and benthic morphology. The project aims to evaluate the contribution of environmental drivers to Hawaiian corals through distribution models. Data from this project may aid in future ecosystem modeling and marine spatial planning efforts that wish to preserve and maintain Hawaiian coral reefs.

This map combines distribution data from six coral species into a single view such that the percent coverages of each coral species are summed together for each 50 meter grid cell. Results from Franklin et al. (2013) suggest the rank order of the species to be as follows: Porites lobata, Montipora patula, Pocillopora meandrina, Montipora capitata, Porites compressa, and Montipora flabellata. Porites lobata exhibited the highest abundance, where as M. flabellata exhibited the lowest abundance.

Data access: KML, WMS-C (layer: “hi_ef_all_coralreefs”), WMS, WCS, metadata

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Coral Reef Resilience Survey Sites

Credit: NOAA Habitat Blueprint

The purpose of this study was to assess water quality and examine linkages to coral health and disease in the West Hawaiʻi Habitat Focus Area in 2017. This was a collaborative effort among the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo (UH), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB), and NOAA.

For more information, please contact Stuart Goldberg (stuart.goldberg@noaa.gov).

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS, WFS, metadata

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CRAMP: Coral Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program

Credit: HIMB

The Hawai‘i Coral Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program (CRAMP) was created during 1997-98 by leading coral reef researchers, managers, and educators in Hawai‘i. The initial task was to develop a statewide network consisting of over 30 long-term coral reef monitoring sites and an associated database. Upon completion of the monitoring network, the focus was expanded to include rapid quantitative assessments and habitat mapping on a statewide spatial scale. Today, the emphasis is on using these tools to understand the ecology of Hawaiian coral reefs in relation to other geographic areas.

CRAMP study sites, including all areas of concern designated by the State of Hawai‘i Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), were selected throughout the State of Hawai‘i based on information provided by a wide spectrum of managers, scientists, and educators. These sites represent a full range of reef habitats subjected to various degrees of anthropogenic influences ranging from severely impacted to relatively pristine sites held in conservation status.

CRAMP is based at the Hawaiʻi Institue of Marine Biology (HIMB) of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is led by Dr. Paul L. Jokiel (jokiel@hawaii.edu). For further information, please see: http://cramp.wcc.hawaii.edu.

Please Note: The data displayed on the above map have been restricted to West Hawaiʻi to increase loading efficiency. The downloadable versions contain data for the entire Main Hawaiian Islands.

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS, WFS, metadata

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CRED: REA – Coral Reef Ecosystem Division: Rapid Ecological Assessments

Credit: NOAA CRED

To support a long-term NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) for sustainable management and conservation of coral reef ecosystems, reef fish assessment surveys are conducted as part of Rapid Ecological Assessments (REA) during Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program (Pacific RAMP) cruises in the Main Hawaiian Islands region by the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) at the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC). REA is a useful method for gathering data pertaining to ecologically significant biological components of a reef habitat over small spatial scales. Because the method provides a quick “snapshot” of major reef biota during a single dive or snorkel survey, it is particularly useful in assessing remote areas that are only rarely visited and where little time can be spent. Surveys are conducted along a set of transect lines. With their high level of taxonomic resolution over small spatial scales, REAs are a good complement to towed diver surveys, which are conducted over larger spatial scales but with a lower level of taxonomic resolution.

For more information, please see: CRED Fish Survey Methods.

Please Note: The data displayed on the above map have been restricted to West Hawaiʻi to increase loading efficiency. The downloadable versions contain data for the entire Main Hawaiian Islands.

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS, WFS, metadata

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CRED: Tow – Coral Reef Ecosystem Division: Towed Diver Surveys

Credit: NOAA CRED

Within the depth limits of safe, no-decompression SCUBA diving (generally to 90 feet depth), NOAA-certified Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) divers conduct towed diver surveys (TDS) as a method of assessing relatively large areas of reef habitat. This method involves towing two divers (one collecting fish data, the other collecting benthic data) behind a small surface craft that is moving at a velocity of 1-2 mph. Although the driver of the surface craft attempts to follow a depth contour, the divers also actively maneuver the “towboards” they are holding onto so as to maintain a relatively constant elevation above the surface of the reef. Towed-diver surveys are typically 50 min long and cover about 2-3 km of habitat. This map layer shows the centroid location of towed diver surveys conducted throughout the Main Hawaiian Islands between the years 2005-2010.

For further information, please see: CRED Towed Diver Surveys and CRED Fish Survey Methods.

Please Note: The data displayed on the above map have been restricted to West Hawaiʻi to increase loading efficiency. The downloadable versions contain data for the entire Main Hawaiian Islands.

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS, WFS, metadata

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DAR: Division of Aquatic Resources Marine Monitoring Sites

Credit: State of Hawaiʻi DAR

The State of Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) is the primary agency responsible for coordinating Hawaiʻi’s reef management efforts in the Main Hawaiian Islands. The DAR marine monitoring program employs numerous methodologies developed by DAR scientists in collaboration with NOAA, USGS, and the University of Hawaiʻi (UH). Specific methods are used at study sites depending on the resource management concerns that DAR is looking to address, and include surveys of abundance of resource and herbivorous fish, smaller cryptic fish and recruits, urchins and larger mobile invertebrates, benthic habitat cover, coral health, and biological diversity.

This layer includes the locations of DAR monitoring sites along the west coast of Hawaiʻi Island (Big Island).

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS, WFS, metadata

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Dolphins and Whales

Credit: CRC and Dr. Joseph Mobley (MMRC)

This dataset is an amalgamation of multiple distribution layers for dolphin and whale species found around the State of Hawaiʻi. The dolphin species in this dataset include: bottlenose, Fraser’s, Risso’s, rough-toothed, spinner, spotted pan-tropical, and striped. The whale species in this dataset include: beaked Blainville’s, beaked Cuvier’s, beaked Longman’s, humpback, false killer, fin, pygmy killer, killer, melon-headed, short-finned pilot, sperm, dwarf sperm, Kogia sperm, and pygmy sperm.

The dataset represents the locations of dolphins and whales that have been identified either by automated satellite tracking of tagged organisms or through direct human observation methods. The latter includes shipborne and aerial surveys, photography, and genetic sampling. The data can be useful for assessing species abundance, population structure, habitat use, and behavior.

The data are provided by two main sources, the Cascadia Research Collective (CRC) and Dr. Joseph Mobley of the Marine Mammal Research Consultants (MMRC). The CRC has been surveying odontocetes in Hawaiian waters since 2000 through genetics, photo-identification, and satellite tagging techniques. Dr. Joseph Mobley of the MMRC led aerial surveys for cetateans in Hawaiian waters from 1993-2003.

Please Note: These data look best on one the grayscale basemaps (“Terrain”, “Grayscale”, or “Simple”), which can be changed by expanding the top folder on the right hand side of the map that is entitled “Basemaps.”

Data access: KML, WMS, metadata

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Elevation (USGS 10-m)

Credit: USGS

A 10-meter resolution land surface digital elevation model (DEM) for Big Island in Hawaiʻi from United States Geological Survey (USGS) 1/3 arc-second DEM quadrangles.

Data access: NetCDF, KML, WMS, WCS, OPeNDAP, THREDDS, ERDDAP, LAS, Voyager, metadata

Hillshade access: KML, WMS-C (layer: “hi_usgs_bigi_dem10m_hillshade”), WMS, WCS, metadata

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Fish Ponds

Credit: TNC

The locations of known and historic fish ponds on the island of Hawai‘i (Big Island). For some locations, data includes information on the fish pond’s condition, ownership, and the references that were used for mapping.

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS, WFS, metadata

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FMA: Fisheries Management Areas

Credit: Hawaiʻi Statewide GIS Program

Boundaries of fisheries management areas (FMA) for the State of Hawaiʻi. The mission of the Hawaiʻi Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) is to manage, conserve and restore the state’s unique aquatic resources and ecosystems for present and future generations. Major program areas include projects to manage or enhance fisheries for long-term sustainability of the resources, protect and restore the aquatic environment, protect native and resident aquatic species and their habitat, and provide facilities and opportunities for recreational fishing. The areas outlined in this layer have fishing regulations.

For details and further information, please see: DAR Fishing Regulations.

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS, WFS, metadata

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FRA: Fish Replenishment Areas

Credit: Hawaiʻi Statewide GIS Program

Boundaries of fish replenishment areas (FRA) along the leeward (west) coast of Big Island in Hawaiʻi. In order to replenish populations of heavily collected aquatic species, a network of FRAs comprising 35% of the coastline were established by the State of Hawaiʻi in 1999 through the West Hawaiʻi Regional Fisheries Management Area (FMA), administered by Hawaiʻi’s Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR). Though fishing is permitted (with some restrictions on lay net fishing), aquarium collecting is prohibited in these areas.

For further information, please see: West Hawaiʻi Regional Fishery Management Area.

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS, WFS, metadata

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Habitat Focus Area

Credit: NOAA Habitat Blueprint

The Habitat Blueprint provides a forward-looking framework for NOAA to think and act strategically across programs and with partner organizations to improve coastal and marine habitats for fisheries, marine life, and coastal communities. This layer outlines the Habitat Blueprint project boundary for a portion of the west coast of Hawaiʻi Island (Big Island).

The leeward (west) side of Big Island is known for white sandy beaches and coral reefs that make it a popular destination for snorkeling, diving, and fishing. The region includes a variety of ecosystems including watersheds, Anchialine pool systems, dry-land forest, and coral reefs. There are several species of concern in the area that are important to Hawaiʻi’s economy, culture, and environment. For example, South Kohala contains one of the longest contiguous coral reefs in the state. Nearly a quarter of the corals and fish that live along this coast are found nowhere else in the world. Endangered or threatened species found in this area include Hawaiian monk seals, humpback whales, false killer whales, and green sea turtles (honu). The South Kohala district is one of the fastest growing areas on the Big Island and development is on the rise. Land uses include resort areas and very popular beaches. This means striking a delicate balance between the needs of humans and those of the natural resources. West Hawaiʻi’s natural resources are also threatened by land-based pollution and sediment, aquarium fishing, drought, fires, and invasive species.

For further information, please see: NOAA Habitat Blueprint: West Hawaiʻi.

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS, WFS, metadata

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Kaʻupulehu Marine Monitoring Sites

Credit: TNC

The purpose of this project is to assess the abundance of coral reef fish species inside and outside of two marine managed areas through detailed in-water surveys at 150 sites. For more information, please contact Chad Wiggins (cwiggins@tnc.org).

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS, WFS, metadata

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Kaʻupulehu Proposed Marine Reserve Area

Credit: TNC

Proposed marine reserve area at Kaʻupulehu in the northern part of the Kona district on the west coast of Hawaiʻi Island. The community proposal includes no-take for 10 years to allow for the reef to rest and replenish. For more information, please contact Chad Wiggins (cwiggins@tnc.org).

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS, WFS, metadata

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Kīholo Fishpond Monitoring

Credit: TNC

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) collects multiple data types at Kīholo Fishpond, including invasive vegetation, larval fish, sediment points, water quality monitoring, and water level. For more information, please contact Chad Wiggins (cwiggins@tnc.org).

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS, WFS, metadata

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MLCD: Marine Life Conservation Districts

Credit: Hawaiʻi Statewide GIS Program

First introduced to Hawaiʻi in 1967 with Hanauama Bay on Oʻahu, Marine Life Conservation Districts (MLCD) are designed to conserve and replenish marine resources. MLCDs allow only limited fishing and other consumptive uses, or prohibit such uses entirely. They provide fish and other aquatic life with a protected area in which to grow and reproduce, and are home to a great variety of species.

MLCDs are established by the State of Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), as authorized by Chapter 190 of the Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes. Suggestions for areas to be included in the MLCD system may come from the State Legislature or the general public. In addition, the DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) regularly conducts surveys of marine ecosystems throughout the state, and may recommend MLCD status for areas.

For further information, please see: Hawaiʻi Marine Life Conservation Districts.

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS, WFS, metadata

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Nautical Charts

Credit: NOAA OCS

NOAA Raster Navigational Charts (NOAA RNC®) are geo-referenced, digital images of NOAA navigational charts, or nautical charts. Nautical charts show water depth, shorelines, prominent topographic features, aids to navigation, and other navigational information.

For further information, please visit: Learn About Nautical Cartography.

Please Note: Ocean depth soundings are in fathoms and refer to Mean Lower Low Water. Heights of rocks, bridges, landmarks and lights are in feet and refer to Mean High Water. Contour and summit elevation values are in feet and refer to Mean Sea Level.

Data access: BSB , WMS

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Puakō Coral Health And Water Quality Sites

Credit: TNC

To understand and mitigate the impacts of land-based pollution on coral reef health, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo (UH), and other researchers collected data to: 1) identify where high groundwater flows occur on the Puakō reef system; 2) determine what is in the water by monitoring levels of bacteria and nutrients; and 3) assess whether degraded water quality can compromise coral health—and if so, which sites are most vulnerable.

For more information, please contact Chad Wiggins (cwiggins@tnc.org).

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS, WFS, metadata

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Sentinel Site

Credit: NOAA Sentinel Site Program

The Hawaiian Islands Sentinel Site Cooperative (SSC) is one of five areas across the country that make up NOAA’s Sentinel Site Program. This program brings together a network of people from across different levels of government, community involvement, NGOs and other stakeholders, expertise, and existing NOAA tools and services within specific geographic regions to tackle problems faced by coastal communities. The initial focus areas for the Hawaiian Islands SSC are to restore damaged wetlands by monitoring rainfall, stream flow, and salt water intrusion; balance human needs with ecosystem health; and to find solutions to local problems related to coastal inundation and sea level change.

This layer outlines the SSC project boundary for a portion of the west coast of Hawaiʻi Island (Big Island).

For further information, please see: Hawaiian Islands Sentinel Site Cooperative.

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS, WFS, metadata

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Ship Traffic (2008-2009)

Credit: U.S. Coast Guard

This layer provides ship traffic for the state of Hawaiʻi during the period 2008-2009. Ship traffic is defined as the number of times a vessel occupies each square kilometer. The Automatic Identification System (AIS) is an internationally-recognized shipboard broadcast system that communicates information to shore-based stations and other AIS-equipped ships. The United States Coast Guard (USCG) has developed rules applicable to both U.S. and foreign vessels that require owners and operators of most commercial vessels to install and use AIS to increase security and safety of maritime transportation. PacIOOS obtained AIS data from the USCG Nationwide AIS (NAIS) project. While specific times for ship locations were redactated, the data represent a cumulation over the two-year period (2008-2009) from which ship frequency was computed at 1-km resolution.

Data access: KML, WMS, THREDDS, Voyager, metadata

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Small Boat Harbors

Credit: Hawaiʻi Statewide GIS Program

Displays the locations of small boat harbors for the State of Hawaiʻi, including harbors, marinas, wharfs, and basins used for recreation, fishing, charter boats, tour boats, yacht clubs, passenger ships, and other purposes.

For further information, please see: DOBOR Facilities.

Please Note: The data displayed on the above map have been restricted to West Hawaiʻi to increase loading efficiency. The downloadable versions contain data for the entire Main Hawaiian Islands.

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS, WFS, metadata

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South Kohala Priority Site

Credit: Hawaiʻi DAR

The State of Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) is the primary agency responsible for coordinating Hawaiʻi’s reef management efforts in the Main Hawaiian Islands. The Coral Reef Working Group (CRWG), made up of key state and federal partners involved in coral reef management, was established to help provide guidance for the State of Hawaiʻi’s coral program.

The 2010 Hawaiʻi Coral Reef Strategy (HCRS) is the guiding coral reef management document used by the DAR with support from the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program. The HCRS was developed through a participatory process including DAR staff as well as other agency representatives, academics and NGO partners and regional experts. Prior to the completion of the HCRS, management efforts were informed by threat-focused Local Action Strategies (LAS’s). While the HRCS prioritizes place-based stewardship efforts, it includes and incorporates actions and needs identified by the LAS’s.

This layer outlines the HCRS project boundary for a portion of the west coast of Hawaiʻi Island (Big Island) in South Kohala. The goal for the South Kohala Conservation Action Plan (CAP) is to develop strategies to address priority threats to South Kohala’s coral reef ecosystems. This process will engage statebolders to identify:

  1. priority conservation targets,
  2. threats acting on the targets,
  3. strategies to conserve the targets, and
  4. measurable indicators to evaluate the success of those strategies at conserving the targets.

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS, WFS, metadata

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Streams

Credit: Hawaiʻi Statewide GIS Program

Hawaiʻi is one of the five Hawaiian Islands (Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, and Maui) with high elevations to capture rain clouds arriving from the Northeast trade winds. These islands also have enough rainfall to generate streams. There are a total of 376 small, torrential mountain streams on the windward sides of these islands.

Hawaiian streams are smaller than those of the U.S. mainland and many are characterized by numerous waterfalls. The waterfalls give the streams a steep profile, which is most prominent on the younger islands, like Hawaiʻi. Because the Hawaiian Islands are so isolated, there is a sparse fish population with many endemic species. Out of 550 species of marine fishes in the islands, five are native. It is important to maintain the natural patterns of water flow in streams to protect native Hawaiian animals. Natural flows provide a way for the native marine organisms to complete their lifecycle.

For further information, please see: Hawaiian Streams.

Please Note: The data displayed on the above map have been restricted to West Hawaiʻi to increase loading efficiency. The downloadable versions contain data for the entire Main Hawaiian Islands.

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS-C (layer: “hi_hcgg_all_darstreams”), WMS, WFS, metadata

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Territorial Sea

Credit: NOAA OCS

Territorial waters, or a territorial sea, as defined by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is a belt of coastal waters extending at most twelve nautical miles (12 nmi) from the baseline (usually the mean low-water mark) of a coastal state. The territorial sea is regarded as the sovereign territory of the state, although foreign ships are allowed innocent passage through it; this sovereignty also extends to the airspace over and seabed below.

Please Note: The data displayed on the above map have been restricted to the State of Hawaiʻi to increase loading efficiency. The downloadable versions contain data for U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands, including Hawaiʻi, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), and Guam. The data also include the territorial sea boundaries of the U.S. Minor Outlying Islands of Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Atoll, Palmyra Atoll, and Wake Island.

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS, WFS, metadata

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TNC: The Nature Conservancy Hawaiʻi Marine Program

Credit: TNC

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is an international, non-profit conservation organization that works to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people around the world. In Hawaiʻi, TNC has worked with partners and members for 30 years to protect more than one million acres of critical natural lands. The TNC Hawaiʻi Marine Program was launched in 2001 to restore and protect the near-shore coral reefs and marine resources surrounding Hawaiʻi. With the help of local communities and conservation partners, TNC monitors the health and abundance of Hawaiʻi’s marine resources to identify major threats and develop strategies for protection. This map shows general areas in Hawaiʻi where TNC has focused its marine monitoring efforts.

Please Note: The data displayed on the above map have been restricted to West Hawaiʻi to increase loading efficiency. The downloadable versions contain data for the entire Main Hawaiian Islands.

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS, WFS, metadata

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Watersheds

Credit: Hawaiʻi Statewide GIS Program

Watershed boundaries were generated by the State of Hawaiʻi Office of Planning in Arc/Info and GRID using U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Digital Elevation Model (DEM) data.

Please Note: The data displayed on the above map have been restricted to West Hawaiʻi to increase loading efficiency. The downloadable versions contain data for the entire Main Hawaiian Islands.

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS, WFS, metadata

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Whale Sanctuary

Credit: Hawaiʻi Statewide GIS Program

Boundaries of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (HIHWNMS). Created by Congress in 1992 to protect humpback whales and their habitat in Hawaiʻi. The sanctuary lies within the shallow (less than 600 feet), warm waters surrounding the Main Hawaiian Islands and constitutes one of the world’s most important humpback whale habitats. Through education, outreach, research and resource protection activities, the sanctuary strives to protect humpback whales and their habitat in Hawaiʻi. It is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in partnership with the State of Hawaiʻi’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).

For further information, please see: HIHWNMS.

Data access: Shapefile, GeoJSON, KML, WMS, WFS, metadata

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Publication Date: November 2018

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Priority Issues

West Hawaiʻi’s marine resources face a growing threat from human impacts from land to sea. The area is experiencing one of the fastest population growth rates on the island, which is leading to increased residential and resort development along the coast that may contribute to increased nutrient and chemical pollution, and commercial and recreational overuse. On land, non-native goats overgraze and denude dry areas increasing the risk of erosion and the transport of sediments to coral reefs. Predicted rising sea levels are likely to overwhelm coastal residences and infrastructure, thus impacting the coastal and marine resources upon which communities depend. The following key factors are leading to habitat loss or degradation in the area:

Climate Change – Impacts from climate change are among the most wide-reaching threats to habitat quality in most marine systems. It is predicted that sea level rise, changes in storm intensity and precipitation, increases in ocean temperature and ocean acidification will alter marine ecosystems and resources in the West Hawaiʻi HFA.

Erosion and Sedimentation – Uncontrolled grazing by feral goats in watersheds that are naturally dry removes much of the native plant cover. Native plants and their root systems are critical to stabilizing sediment and preventing erosion. The transport and delivery of eroded sediment from land to sea is harmful to the coral reef environment, as it can directly smother and kill corals as well as prevent coral larvae from recruiting. Additionally, coral reef habitat can become significantly altered as sediment accumulates and hardbottom coral reef habitat shifts to a soft sediment seafloor habitat. Changes in habitat can cause changes to the species composition and abundance at a given location.

Eutrophication – Nutrients are transported to the ocean along with sediment at points of discharge through rivers, streams and other drainages. A major concern is that elevated nutrient levels on the reef could lead to a shift from coral to macroalgal dominance and/or promote coral disease. Other sources of eutrophication in West Hawaiʻi include the seepage of ground water and cesspool effluent onto the reef.

Wildlife Interaction Pressures – The waters of West Hawaiʻi are home to several protected species of whales, dolphins, sea turtles and the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal. Many beach goers and ocean users that attempt to view and interact with these animals may not have a full understanding of how their actions impact these animals and their habitats, and an enhanced understanding of how they can minimize interactions is needed.

Fishing Pressures – Coral reef ecosystems are dynamic and delicately balanced. Changes in the abundance and behavior of species within these systems can have pronounced impacts on the overall function and health of the ecosystem. For example, a significant reduction in the abundance of herbivore species can lead to phase shifts that favor the dominance of macroalgae. While humans are part of the ecosystem and fishing is not inherently problematic, the removal of too many important ecological species can have significant impacts to coral reef habitats.

Monk seal and turtle

Hawaiian monk seal and green sea turtle on the beach. Credit: D. Bonsignore.

Objectives and Activities

NOAA has developed four objectives to address the priority issues in the West Hawaiʻi Habitat Focus Area.

Objective 1: Improve coral health through the reduction of the delivery land-based pollutants, such as sediments and nutrients.

Objective 2: Reduce vulnerability of communities and natural resources to the localized effects of climate change.

Objective 3: Ensure that communities are informed and contribute to the sustainable use and restoration of natural resources.

Objective 4: Provide better management tools and easily accessible information to promote informed decisions.

The tables highlight select activities under each objective. For a complete list of activities and/or to request the implementation plan, please contact Shannon Ruseborn (shannon.ruseborn@noaa.gov).

Objective 1. Improved Coral Health Through the Reduction of Land-based Pollutants such as Sediments and Nutrients

Activity NOAA Office/ Program Partners Expected Outputs
Activity 1
1.1 Identification of geographic areas of land contributing to water quality impacts in Pelekane Bay Watershed National Ocean Service (NOS) Office for Coastal Management, NMFS Office of Habitat Conservation The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Kohala Center, United States Geological Survey (USGS), National Park Service (NPS)
  • Light detection and ranging (LiDAR)*
  • Hotspot Map
  • Mitigation Steps
1.2 Collection of reference points of sediment, nutrient, and pollutant conditions to be used in the development of water quality indicators and management goals NOS Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, NMFS Office of Habitat Conservation, NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office (PIRO), Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) TNC, University of Hawaiʻi (UH) Hilo, Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB), State of Hawaiʻi Division of Aquatic Resources
  • Pelekane Bay sediment state and pathway study
  • Puakō nutrient state and pathway study
1.3 Synthesis of results from activities 1.1 and 1.2 to inform potential terrestrial erosion mitigation and marine and terrestrial habitat restoration actions NMFS Office of Habitat Conservation TNC, State of Hawaiʻi Division of Aquatic Resources
  • Work with partners and landowners to identify most effective management actions

* LiDAR is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth. These light pulses – combined with other data recorded by the airborne system – generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape of the Earth and its surface characteristics.

Objective 2. Reduced Vulnerability of Communities (Human and Natural) to Localized Effects of Climate Change

Activity NOAA Office/ Program Partners Expected Outputs
Activity 2
2.1 Collection of Global Positioning System (GPS) elevation data points and extreme probability analysis for multiple sites National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS), NOS Office for Coastal Management, NOS National Geodetic Survey NPS, Ala Kahai Historic Trail, TNC, County of Hawaiʻi, Puakō community
  • GPS elevation at selected points
  • Extreme probability predictions
  • Expected ecological impacts
2.2 Implementation of coral reef resilience studies to determine the relative resilience levels of coral reefs NMFS Office of Habitat Conservation, NMFS PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Program (CREP); NOS Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, NOS Office for Coastal Management, Coral Reef Conservation Program TNC, State of Hawaiʻi Division of Land and Natural Resources, Marine Applied Research Center
  • Publish reports on assessment results
  • Disseminate findings to resource managers

Objective 3. West Hawaiʻi Communities are Informed and Contribute to the Sustainable Use and Restoration of Natural Resources

Activity NOAA Office/ Program Partners Expected Outputs
Activity 3
3.1 Development of a strategic communications plan on minimizing human interactions with protected species NOS Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, NMFS PIRO, NMFS Office of Habitat Conservation TNC, State of Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources, State of Hawaiʻi Division of Aquatic Resources
  • Market research
  • Strategic communications plan
3.2 Recruitment of fishers and community members to develop pono fishing practices NMFS PIRO TNC, Hui Aloha Kīholo
  • Pono fishing practices developed with fishers and community members
3.3 Sustainable use and restoration of fishponds NMFS Office of Habitat Conservation TNC, Hui Aloha Kīholo
  • Community events with volunteers to remove invasive species in Kīholo fishpond
  • Conduct biological assessment of target fish species
  • Organize hui meetings to identify and assess priority needs
3.4 Establish community network and complete natural resource management plans NMFS Office of Habitat Conservation TNC, communities
  • Organize quarterly meetings
  • Support three communities in developing a management plan (one in each year)
3.5 Providing additional assistance and resources for locally relevant research while improving local capacity through a fellowship program NOS Office for Coastal Management TNC, communities
  • Provide fellows in-depth training, mentoring and peer-to-peer learning experiences
  • Fellows support the needs of NOAA and TNC in the Habitat Focus Area

Objective 4. Better Tools and Information to Improve Management Decisions

Activity NOAA Office/ Program Partners Expected Outputs
Activity 4
4.1 Conduct optical and acoustic seafloor surveying from shoreline to 150m depth isobath for validation of benthic mapping NMFS PISFC-CREP State of Hawaiʻi Division of Aquatic Resources, TNC, NOS HIHWNMS, University of Hawaiʻi , USGS
  • Map of high resolution bathymetry of entire Habitat Focus Area
  • Series of map layers of benthic features (e.g. hard bottom, sand, coral and algae), geomorphology (e.g., rugosity, slope, bathymetric position index, habitat complexity)
  • Summary report of methods and findings
4.2 Develop maps of existing boundaries and projects. Create web based mapping portal for sharing information with agency partners and the public NMFS PIRO, NOS HIHWNMS, NOS Office for Coastal Management Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System (PacIOOS)
  • Website and mapping portal

Partners

The West Hawaiʻi Habitat Focus Area is an initiative accomplished through partnerships between county, state, and federal agencies working with businesses, ocean users, non-governmental organizations, and community groups. Together these stakeholders are working to find the balance between ecosystem restoration and the sustainable use of natural resources upon which a healthy economy depends.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) offices and programs are working with multiple partners such as The Nature Conservancy to improve ocean health along West Hawaiʻi’s coastline. Pooling resources and focusing efforts in this area can make a larger collective impact toward creating a more resilient landscape around the shared goals of healthy reefs, abundant fisheries, and thriving communities. See below for a list of central partners (in alphabetical order).

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Federal Government

Non-governmental Organizations

State Government

Other