The video was taken in November 2010, the last time we had a rain storm on leeward Kohala Mountain. It was 9:30 in the morning, probably about 5 hours after the 3-inch rainfall that caused a flash flood.
I had the opportunity today to talk with a class of 7th graders here in Waimea about the connections between watersheds, streams, and the ocean. The kids are concerned about ocean pollution, but imagine, like most adults, that "pollution" is what comes from industrial or commercial marine activities. Somehow we all just want to blame a faceless entity/corporation/business for the demise of water quality, decrease in fish stocks, and general "trashing" of the ocean.
Yes, people throw garbage in the water, our septic tanks leak into nearshore waters, and commercial fishing fleets remove way too many fish. But the culprits here along our coastlines in Kohala are much less obvious, and the story is more complex.
In Hawaii, goats are destroying our coral reefs.
I made that statement the other day to a young man I met in Waikoloa, and he looked perplexed. He was probably trying to figure out how goats got out on the reef (they can swim?) and why and how they would be trampling (or eating?!) coral.
Of course, to clearly see the connection, we have to understand that the narrative has many intermediate steps between goats and coral. Feral goats are generally unfenced and unmanaged. Goats denude the vegetation on the watershed. With no vegetation, there is nothing to hold the soil when it rains. Hence, our streams run like chocolate milk after a storm, and our coral reefs are smothered with sediment.
By understanding these strange connections, we can better understand why conservation actions for the protection of coral reefs in Hawaii include the construction of fences and control of feral animals.
By Melora, KWP Coordinator