The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is more than just a monolithic entity whose acronym conjures up vague ideas of land use and preservation or mitigating a man–made disaster affecting the state’s land and water.
The DLNR, through its agencies and divisions, frequently takes proactive steps to protect the ‘āina and ocean with carefully thought–out projects that are then implemented by hundreds of workers across the islands.
One such effort is the restoration of the waters of Kāneʻohe Bay and off Waikīkī. Algae was clumping and matting together, blocking air and sunlight, causing destruction of coral and inhibiting sea life from thriving. Mechanically pulling out invasive plants was one way to clear the ocean. The other inventive way was to use tiny sea urchins to eat away at the harmful plants. The small spiny urchins are native to local waters, but more urchins than spawn in the wild were needed to populate the bay.
Enter the ‘Ānuenue Fisheries Research Center (AFRC), a facility of the DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR). There, on Sand Island, the urchins are spawned and raised until they reach the juvenile stage. Of course, it takes a village to raise youngsters 24/7 – the village here being a multiagency cohort comprising DAR, Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit (PCSU), NOAA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Hawai‘i Department of Transportation (DOT).
One million and thirteen thousand tiny creatures later, the program is working and in full swing. Regular monitoring informs the team when there is algae regrowth and the need to “plant” more sea urchins.
And the millionth little guy, “Vince?” Not only was it a milestone number, but the name is a tribute to longtime DLNR employee Vincent Goo, a fisheries technician who died in 2021.
“Vince was one of the unsung heroes of the urchin hatchery,” said hatchery manager David Cohen. “He took an interest from the very beginning and helped me and the project every step of the way.”
A DLNR video of the sea urchin program can be found at: