HI - What will we do about Hawaiʻi’s disappearing shorelines?

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Shorelines are beginning to disappear around the world. The University of Hawaiʻi and the Surfrider Foundation have both found some disturbing prospects for Hawaiʻi’s coveted beaches.

The Surfrider Foundation has identified five US areas that display the varying threats of our coastlines. One of those was Oahu’s North Shore.

In their study, Surfrider Foundation discovered that 75% of The North Shore’s beaches are rapidly eroding. The erosion is threatening homes, roads, peoples’ ability to enjoy the beaches/waves and the local economy.

“In an effort to proactively protect accelerated beach loss and improve our beaches and coastlines, the Surfrider Foundation is advocating for nature-based solutions and working to address coastal resilience challenges,” said a spokesperson for Surfrider.  

In addition to these findings, UH did a five-year study in which a research team explored the impacts of sea-level rise on the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve.

In evaluating the biological, physical, and social carrying capacities of this pristine natural destination, the team found that 88% of the preserve’s usable beach will be underwater by 2030.

“The predictions of the extent that sea level will impact the usable area at Hanauma Bay was eye-opening,” said Kuʻulei Rodgers, researcher at HIMB. “It will assist management in preparation and to develop recommendations, other alternatives and solutions.”

An aspect of the research that impacted findings was an examination of how tourism is impacting fish populations.

They found two significant points of data:

  1. Some fish has less of a flight instinct when it comes to humans approaching them.
  2. Fish became more diverse when there were no tourists (like during the pandemic), and fish become less diverse when there are copious amounts tourists, as with daily operations of HBNP.

They also found that tourism around HBNP is changing:

  1. Tourism from Japan dropped from 25% in 2005 to less than 1% in 2022.
  2. There was an increase in Hawaiʻi residents visiting from 3% in 2001 to 13% in 2022.

The team said that tourism at HBNP has decreases from 4 million annually to 500.,000 annually due to

  1. closing HBNP two days per week.
  2. a reservation system.
  3. increased fees.
  4. effective management strategies.

“During the pandemic closure, the water clarity was 56% clearer as compared to prior to the closure,” said a spokesperson for the team. “Following the reopening of HBNP at 25% visitor capacity, the water clarity decreased by 30%.

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