Local group partners with Cousteau to restore wetlands | News, Sports, Jobs

Jean-Michel Cousteau paints a mural section with students from the Ka’ehu Youth Enhancement & Mentorship program on Wednesday in Ka’ehu Bay. The mural was created under the direction of nature artist Patrick Ching (right). Cousteau’s nonprofit Ocean Futures Society is partnering with local nonprofit Ka’ehu on a 64-acre coastal wetland restoration project. – The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

WAILUKU – Imagine the coastal wetlands of Paukukalo filled with native plants and wildlife, thriving fish ponds, two streams of cool, clean water, cultural sites and a healthy shoreline with lime, fish and corals.

Historically, that’s what the undeveloped 64-acre Ka’ehu Bay looked like, and that’s what Kahulu Maluo-Pearson, executive director of the nonprofit Ka’ehu, envisions for the area once more and in perpetuity.

“Like many beautiful places around the world, Ka’ehu Bay has seen better days for several reasons: overgrowth, runoff from nearby areas, and natural currents from nature that bring thousands of pounds of ocean debris onto its shore each month”, Maluo-Pearson said Wednesday evening. “Our vision for the future is one where the community embraces Ka’ehu Bay through traditional stewardship and re-establishes a relationship with the ‘aina and kai, to restore its marine life, coral and habitat. coastline to its pristine state, giving it the honor it so amply deserves.

As part of ongoing restoration efforts, a partnership between the nonprofit Ka’ehu and Ocean Futures Society – founded by Jean-Michel Cousteau – has created a community program called Malama Ae Kai (Coastal Guardians), which aims restore 64 acres of coastal wetlands. in Paukukalo by integrating “Traditional Hawaiian Management Practices and Modern Scientific Approaches to Climate Change”, said Maluo-Pearson.

The partnership is for the next three years and will involve working with the community and teaching young people best practices to preserve the coastline, marine life, coral reefs and algae of Ka’ehu Bay in Wailuku.

The nonprofit’s goal is to bring back the traditional food crops, lo’i, and native plants that once filled the area, bordered by the Wailuku River and Waiehu Creek.

“It’s an honor for me to be invited here on Maui, to try to better understand nature and what we can do to help it,” said Cousteau, president of the Ocean Futures Society, ecologist, oceanographic explorer, educator, author, architect and French filmmaker. “While I’m very excited about the 64 acres, I still want to know specifically what’s along the coast, what’s underwater, what’s going on there and what type of species I may not have seen in other parts of the island, so it’s an exciting time. A very exciting time.

The Ocean Futures Society team is traveling to Maui this week through Sunday and will return multiple times to survey and assess Ka’ehu Bay with nonprofit leaders, Cousteau said.

The plan is to dive, film and document, as well as meet with youth, families and community members to talk about climate change and the importance of preserving the ocean and Hawaiian culture for a sustainable future. .

“We use the wisdom and knowledge of our kupuna, our ancestors and work with Jean-Michel Cousteau to use a scientific approach, equipment and techniques such as data collection to understand the current state of Ka’ Bay. ehu and help develop a plan to help restore marine life, corals and coastlines,” said Maluo-Pearson.

Son of ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, Jean-Michel Cousteau has studied and explored the world’s oceans for over 70 years.

Among the issues causing environmental degradation are plastics and carbon emissions, litter polluting beaches and coastlines, and chemicals and heavy metals found in everyday household items and products, much of which is consumed by animals and humans in one way or another, he said.

Yet there has been a shift towards environmental awareness.

“So I’m still very optimistic about the future of our species,” says Jean-Michel Cousteau. “Time is running out, but I think we are going in the right direction.”


Cousteau founded Ocean Futures Society in 1999 after the death of his father, to “honor his philosophy” which is to continue to share experiences and educate individuals and communities as well as local, national and international organizations on the essential connection between people, cultural traditions and the ocean, including the importance of taking “responsible environmental action”.

Now in his eighties, Cousteau has seen the rise of technology and how it has enabled billions of people to stay connected and spread knowledge and awareness of environmental issues that “we can treat and take care of.”

From directing the first interactive underwater video chat live on the Microsoft Internet from the coral reefs of Fiji in 1997 to producing more than 80 films that are influencing positive change, including a PBS documentary titled “Journey to Kure” for former President George W. Bush who inspired him to designate the 1,200-mile chain of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands as the first Marine National Monument (Papahanaumokuakea), his work and advocacy for conservation has impacted millions of people and wildlife around the world.

Through his research expeditions, his goal is to inspire young people, “decision makers of tomorrow” and communities around the world to bring about positive change for a better future.

Bridging the gap between governments and industries to encourage effective environmental policies will also help mitigate environmental degradation, he noted.

For example, he spoke to and showed former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo in 2000 the importance of protecting gray whale breeding grounds in the San Ignacio Lagoon instead of losing them to industrial development. In 2021 he made a statement to the Republic of Fiji on the protection of its coral reefs.

“The fact is, the more we can connect with people’s hearts, their families, their children, their grandchildren, they also want to protect them, so we need to bridge the gap between today’s and tomorrow’s organizations” , he said. “There are a lot of places where we can do that.”

Cousteau has won the Environmental Defense Council Lifetime Achievement Award, the Oceana Ocean Hero Award, and the Attenborough Award for Excellence in Nature Filmmaking, to name a few, and is enshrined in the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame. Marine.

Now back in Hawaii, on a small green wooden bench in Ka’ehu Bay, Cousteau lights up the most when he talks about the fascinating behaviors of humpback whales, which make annual visits to Maui, as well as the killer whales, dolphins, birds and fish. .

With a team of experts, he plans to dive and document for a television series the places around Maui he has visited over the past 35 years to see how different the marine environment is today.

The goal is to continue to “educate ourselves to make sure we stop losing species and at the same time discover new species and new behaviors”, Cousteau said.

“I have dived in many parts of Maui and this is a treasure,” he said. “There are thousands and thousands of species in the ocean that we don’t know about, so we need to do a lot more research.”


Recognizing and understanding that everything is connected, audiences can better understand the impact of their actions on the planet, which is 71% ocean, and find ways to live in balance, Cousteau said.

And the best lessons are often found in outdoor classrooms. On Wednesday morning, children were picking up trash along Ka’ehu Bay as part of the nonprofit Ka’ehu program, which runs field trips, workshops, and after-school and summer training.

“What is very important is to take them out to touch, smell and smell nature, whether on land or in the ocean”, Cousteau said. “These young children are learning a lot, a lot more than if they were inside listening to someone tell them what to do or what not to do.”

Later in the afternoon, a group of children from the summer camp traveled to the Iao Valley to learn about stream stewardship.

“The core of our being here is learning cultural insights and then implementing the activities that give them a sense of sustainability and living simply with a smaller environmental footprint, and that starts with the daily choices we make. all”, said Holly Lohuis, marine biologist and environmental educator with the Ocean Futures Society.

Like the variety of plants and animals on land and in the sea, there are a variety of cultures and practices around the world, making each one unique and worth preserving, Cousteau said.

“The goal is to protect, to preserve the ecosystem, the Maui culture, the way of life, the language, to make sure that diversity means stability and that’s the only way we’re going to save the human species and this is one example of probably hundreds of other examples from other parts of the world,” he said. “For me, this is a fabulous and extraordinary treasure, and we will do everything we can to help you.”

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at [email protected]

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