Kuleana and Cleaning the Reef

Like many non-Hawaiian natives that live here on the islands, my family and I visited many times before we made the move. As the visits stacked up over the years, a bond began to build between this magical place and my wife and I. It became harder and harder to leave each time until finally we were able to make the move permanently. Once here for good, we truly felt like we were home. If fact, this week my wife reposted a comment on Facebook from 10 years ago that said “We live in Seattle, but our heart is in Maui.”

We absolutely feel connected to this place, and with that connection we also feel a responsibility to take care of it the best we can. This goes hand in hand with being scuba divers. As responsible divers, we must respect and care for our underwater environment. I spend my days teaching scuba and showing our visitors the wonders of our reef system. The calculation is simple, no reef, no diving. So that brings us back to our responsibility to the place we live and work.

In the Hawaiian language the word Kuleana is loosely translated to mean “responsibility”. But it goes much deeper than that. It is a uniquely Hawaiian value and practice that refers to the reciprocal relationship between the person who is responsible and the place or thing they are responsible for. I only learned of this concept a short time ago, but I immediately recognized it as what I was feeling for my home here on Maui.

At the end of January, we experienced some rather severe weather. These storms caused damage to our reef system and brought large quantities of both natural and man-made debris to our local dive sites. In the case of Ulua Beach, we found a large fiberglass box about 7 x 4 x 3 feet, open on one side, in about 23 feet of water at the end of first reef. 

Apparently, this was a storage box for towels and other items from one of the local resorts that had been blown into the water. The real problem was the very large towels that this box contained were now strewn all over the reef. If left in place, these towels would severely damage the reef. Our local dive community, consisting of locals and visitors alike, began removing the towels from the reef, bringing them in as fast as they could. However, these were very large and thick towels, some designed to cover a complete chaise lounge, so you could only bring in one or two at a time. So we removed the rest from the reef and stashed them in the submerged box until we could shuttle them all to shore.

After a few weeks, there were still about a dozen towels left in the box and they were now starting to deteriorate, so it was time to get them out. So the “Dreams Team” turned it into a rig and lift project. We got the remaining towels into to mesh bags and rigged them to a submersible marker buoy (SMB or Safety Sausage) and pulled them to the shore. In the water, using the SMB, they seemed weightless but once we got to the shore, they weighed about 120 pounds out of the water. We disposed of them properly and now have our sights set on removing the fiberglass container.

Kuleana, that uniquely Hawaiian reciprocal relationship between us and our home, Maui. Maui gives us so much; it’s only right that we take responsibility to take care of her. A big mahalo to all of the divers who helped clean up Ulua over the past few weeks. If you would like to learn more about upcoming clean-ups or even about becoming a Dive Against Debris specialty diver, give us a call at the shop and we’ll be happy to help get your started!