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A Healthier Reef

More regulations are not the solution.

September 17, 2009
Commentary contributed by Teri Leonard, PADI Course Director · Kïhei

Yes, I make my living off the beauty of the resources. Life would be simpler if I could perform these services as a volunteer. However, my bill-collectors insist that I pay for my food, water, power, rent and everything else necessary for existence in the modern world. Consequently, I work for a living. I am a commercial operator. I charge a fee for my time and services, just as every other working person on Maui must do to survive. Many working citizens of Maui may not realize that their jobs are also dependent on the reefs, the beautiful views, the excellent climate and everything special about Maui. We’re all in this together.

Long before the county suggested it, the standards of our training methods included teaching understanding and respect for the reef environment. My employer, Donovan Domingo, is a cofounder of the Maui Reef Fund. This group of commercial operators organizes underwater clean-ups and has removed thousands of pounds of fishing lines, lures, weights, plastic bags, bottles, cans, golf balls, etc. from the coral reef. He was awarded the Living Reef Award for his continuing efforts with the Maui Reef Fund to establish and maintain moorings. Moorings alleviate the need for anchors and help keep the reef safe.

I am surprised to read recent letters to the editor suggesting that current Maui County administrators are revolutionary in their plans to regulate commercial ocean activities. Our industry is heavily (and expensively) regulated by Maui County and has been for years. Anyone with knowledge of county government is well aware of this. They are also well aware that a moratorium on the issuance of commercial ocean activities permits has been in effect for years. Our community has been led to believe that Maui County is having a rush of new, untrained, ill-equipped, uncaring commercial operators. This is not the truth.

The current CORA regulations were well thought out and have been effective in restricting commercial activities. To add further intensive restrictions, as put forth by the county Parks Department, will place undue burden on all commercial operators and cause many of them to go out of business. With fewer commercial operators, the end result will be more unsupervised, untrained, ill-equipped, and uncaring recreational users of Maui’s reefs. I hope the county will recognize that adding more restrictive regulations against commercial operators will not create a healthier reef.

I suggest that we put our efforts toward re-establishing sustainable reefs by reusing our water instead of injecting it into the ocean, recreate natural wetlands to filter runoff properly, and design and manage an effective watershed program.



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