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Nonprofit Conservation Group Receives World Surf League Grant to Help Protect Pūpūkea Area

Pupukea Marine Life Conservation District Sharks Cove
Hawaii Public Radio

It’s World Oceans Month and The Conversation took the opportunity to find out how a recent grant from the World Surf League will be used to help manage a popular recreational spot on Oʻahu's North Shore.

Mālama Pūpūkea-Waimea, a volunteer-based watchdog group for the Pūpūkea Marine Life Conservation District, said the WSL PURE grant will help it protect Shark's Cove—a well-known spot for swimmers, snorkelers and divers.

This past weekend it was overrun as tourism is rebounding faster than anyone expected.

Shark's Cove is part of a marine conservation district much like Hanauma Bay, but its borders are open and not easily controlled like Hanauma. Some local residents and conservationists are worried about the future of the coastal resource.

"During the pandemic, there was nobody. It was so nice and it kept our beaches really clean and kept the animals coming closer and closer in, and now it's just getting a little crazy busy," said diver and photographer Angelina Venturella.

Denise Antolini, board president of Mālama Pūpūkea-Waimea, said the group couldn’t be happier that it is the first Hawaiʻi recipient of the WSL inaugural grant that will help protect and conserve the world's oceans.

"We, unfortunately, do have some bad apples who are poaching in the marine life conservation district, which is largely a no-take area," she said. "Somebody came in a couple of weeks ago and took 382 ʻopihi."

She said there have been multiple poaching incidents, especially during the pandemic because there were fewer eyes and ears in the area.

"We try to provide those eyes and ears for the state, for the city and we're down here a lot stewarding the area and helping to educate people and to prevent poaching," Antolini said.

The protected area was designated in 1983, but it's never had a management plan, Antolini said. The WSL grant, along with a Department of Land and Natural Resources partnership, will help the group "identify some real solutions to protect this area in perpetuity."

Future projects include planting native plants to shore up walkways, installing more educational signage, and managing water runoff.

The nonprofit was one of several recipients of the WSL grant—other groups are in Brazil, South Africa and California.

"The WSL takes us to the global stage in terms of marine protection," Antolini said. "And here in Hawaiʻi, there are a lot of groups who are working on similar issues, so we're not alone. But as an all-volunteer organization, it's very challenging. But we're up to the challenge."

This story aired on The Conversation on June 17, 2021.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
Sophia McCullough is a digital news producer. Contact her at news@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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