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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, June 17, 2004

Hawai'i launches program for reefs

By James Gonser
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer

Gov. Linda Lingle and all four county mayors kicked off an environmental campaign yesterday called "A Living Reef Gives Our Islands Life" to educate the public on the value and benefits of — as well as the threats to —the Hawaiian archipelago's 410,000 acres of coral reef.

The Coral Reef Outreach Network, an umbrella group of community organizations and public and private agencies, is backing the Living Reef program. The network has created an annual environmental awards program to honor and recognize organizations, groups or individuals that do the most to preserve Hawai'i's reef ecosystem.

"Our goal is to help protect and nurture the coral reef ecosystem by reminding everyone — residents and visitors — how much our life in Hawai'i depends on the living reef, whether we go near the ocean or not," said Peter Young, chairman of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

"The ocean is part of the fabric of Hawaiian culture and history, and integral to our island lifestyle today, whether we are ocean enthusiasts or not. We, as individuals, are the only ones who can prevent further decline of this precious life-giving resource," Young said.

More than half of all the coral reefs under U.S. jurisdiction are in Hawai'i, and more than 5,000 known species of marine plants and animals live among these reefs.

The campaign will include an educational outreach effort to businesses and services that impact the coral reef, public displays, an Internet-based resource clearinghouse, children's activities, educational materials for use in the classroom, advertising and a video for use on airlines and in hotel rooms.

A 2003 report set the economic value of those reefs at $364 million a year in added value to the state in areas including tourism, fisheries, property value and research. Without a healthy reef, some of Hawai'i's most important assets — beaches, huge surf and snorkeling and diving spots — will deteriorate, the report says.

The awards program will recognize winners in five industry categories: fisheries, ocean recreation, travel/visitor industry, business and agriculture/land owners. Two awards also will be granted in a community division: nonprofit organizations and education.

Nominees must have implemented the reef program or activity between Jan. 1, 2003, and Dec. 31, 2004. Nominations are due by Jan. 31, 2005.

For more information, visit the group's Web site at www.hawaiireef.org.

Reach James Gonser at jgonser@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2431.