KBEC Programs: ReefTeach
As the most popular visitor destination in west Hawai‘i Island, Kahalu‘u Bay is heavily used as a recreation area due to its ease of access and high coral and fish diversity. According to County Lifeguard and University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College Program counts, Kahalu‘u Bay experiences over 400,000 users a year. Unfortunately, many visitors do not understand what coral is and how they can minimize their impact on coral and the other organisms found on the reef. Research has confirmed that overuse and trampling of live corals degrades these delicate ecosystems.
The ReefTeach Program at Kahalu‘u Bay aims to educate visitors and residents alike on how to avoid damaging corals and take care of honu (green sea turtles) and reef animals. ReefTeach is a volunteer-powered program initiated in 2000 by UH Sea Grant for West Hawaiʻi. In 2006 UH Sea Grant was joined by another strong partner, The Kohala Center, and ReefTeach has continued to expand into a visible, robust, and effective reef protection program.
Today, well-trained and dedicated ReefTeach volunteers of all ages educate visitors about what corals are, the different types of fish and invertebrates in the bay, and reef ecology. They also inform visitors and residents of honu basking behavior and help reduce disturbances to honu in the bay.
Data collected during the program have proven the effectiveness of teaching snorkelers and swimmers to be non-destructive reef visitors. Our studies show that 80% of the users of the bay not taught by ReefTeachers will step and stand on coral. Of those taught by ReefTeachers, studies show that 20% will step on coral but only by accident and only for a few seconds in attempts to keep balance because of wave action.
Our Other Programs
Citizen Science is both an ecosystem health monitoring program and a community education and training program.
With the help of our instructors, discover the inter tidal zone and identify the invertebrates that inhabit the tide pools.