Meet five individuals who are helping Maui stay green and blue.
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By Bill Harby
Marine biologist Hannah Bernard’s long list of good works for the ocean would easily stretch from Ma‘alaea to Molokini. She has coordinated or served on numerous research and educational projects, written articles on marine ecology for both scientific and popular publications (including Maui no ka ‘oi), and worked with organizations like Greenpeace, Earthtrust, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Maui Ocean Center. She has also won numerous environmental awards, and was named 1994 “Environmentalist of the Year” by a Maui youth group.
Bernard has founded two Maui-based nonprofit environmental organizations: The Ocean Mammal Institute and the Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund (HWF), which is her current focus.
The fund’s official mission is “to protect and conserve Hawai‘i’s native wildlife with a focus on the marine environment.” Its two longest-running projects are the Monk Seal Watch and the Hawksbill Sea Turtle Project, both developed in 1996, when HWF incorporated.
The key component of both of these projects is education. Volunteers take to the beaches where seals or turtles are sighted, and inform adoring visitors about the animals, while protecting them from well-meaning but un-akamai humans who want to pet the wild animals.
A new NWF project is The Marine Conservation Fund, which is an alliance between conservationists and marine tourism operators. First on the agenda is to repair or replace old mooring pins around Maui to avoid damaging the reefs.
Bernard has been devoting her life to protecting the oceans since a pivotal day in San Francisco, when she was just 14. “Two oil tankers collided outside the Golden Gate Bridge, so I cut school and hitchhiked down to the beach and helped clean the oil off the animals and off the beach,” she recalls.
Bernard says that her devotion to the sea may have something to do with her “Piscean spirit.” That spirit has to be especially strong these days she says. “Those of us in this work—never have we felt more under siege, and our oceans are in trouble.
What gives her hope is growing community involvement. “They’re motivated, they’re ready to stand together on a grassroots level—or sea grass level.”
To become part of that swell of activity, call Bernard at 579-9138.