A neighborhood watch association on Maui in Hawaii is working to protect the Na Papalimu O Pi’ilani reef that it says is being destroyed by commercial stand up paddle (SUP) surf schools that bring paying customers to the reef, dubbed “Shark Pit” by locals. According to a report in the Lahaina News, Shark Pit Neighborhood Watch (SPNW) coordinator Marishia Hannemann says that there is no regulation of the commercial stand up paddle companies and these companies are constantly bringing their customers to Shark Pit, crushing the corals with their boards and falling onto the reef. The association wants the county to step in and regulate the SUP schools before more damage occurs to the reef.
There are nine surf schools that launch from 505 Front Street and paddle their SUP students all the way down into our neighborhood reef to see ‘Shark Pit,’ a 40-foot-deep puka in the reef that is home to many endangered monk seals and turtles and numerous black and white tip sharks, Marishia Hannemann told the Lahaina News. The SUP students are constantly falling off their boards and crushing the fragile coral, and destroying the reef that is home to much aquatic life, including pregnant seahorses that are trying to make a comeback to our reef, she said.
The neighborhood watch recommends that the county park’s department amend the Commercial Ocean Recreational Activity (CORA) permits to add rules for SUP lessons and tours, require all commercial and private companies that offer surfing and SUP lessons to obtain permits, and require the SUP and surf instructors to become CORA-certified.
Hannemann says that CORA offers classes that educate people about the county’s reefs and also teaches them how to spot diseases on the reef, all free of charge to the public. If the surf instructors have been educated in this regard, she said, they could better educate those who pay for lessons on how to be better observers of the reefs and even report when they see something on the reef that is not normal.