Molokini scoping meeting to be held Thursday, March 21

An information and scoping meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 21, 2019, at which staff from the Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) will present details of recent scientific studies and their implication for management concerns at Molokini Crater. The meeting will be held from 5:30 –8:00 pm at the Kihei Community Center (303 E. Lipoa Street, Kihei, Maui). New evidence suggests that some marine predators are being displaced by high human use at the Molokini Marine Life Conservation District (MLCD), which in 2018 attracted more than 360,000 snorkelers and divers. At the meeting, interested people can provide input to help inform the development of updated administrative rules and other possible management efforts.

The Molokini MLCD was first established in 1977 as a unique offshore islet with a very healthy and intact coral reef ecosystem. Rules that established this MLCD have not been comprehensively reviewed and adjusted for nearly 25 years. Rules were last amended In 1995 to create a limited commercial permit system designed to prevent future uncontrolled growth by commercial tour companies. DAR is now looking to update these rules to address current crowding concerns, ensure fair and equitable use by all boaters, and amend other rules as necessary.

In 2010 a social carrying-capacity study found that over 60% of all Molokini visitors felt crowded when too many boats were in the crater. At that time, visitor numbers were around 300,000 per year, but have now grown to 360,000 per year. A 2016 reef predator movement study found that 50% of ʻōmilu (a key nearshore reef predator) were displaced outside the shallow crater into deeper water when the number of boats exceeded 12. Although the coral reef habitat appears to remain healthy, displacement of key reef predators is an indication that high human use is affecting this fully protected reserve. DAR is currently working with permitted Molokini commercial operators to explore how best to address these concerns while minimizing impacts to their tour operations.