Integrated Ecosystem Assessment Pilot Program Underway in Kona Region of Hawaii

Fishing excursions by commercial charter vessels and recreational vessels are an important economic 
            activity in the Kona region of Hawaii.
Fishing excursions by commercial charter vessels and recreational vessels are an important economic activity in the Kona region of Hawaii.

The Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center has begun a one-year pilot Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) program for the Kona Coast region of the Island of Hawaii. The purpose of an IEA is to synthesize and analyze information on natural and socio–economic factors in a region, specifically in relation to identified ecosystem management goals. The Kona Coast was a natural choice for this project because of its dynamic ecology and the extensive research already done in the region. The Kona Coast is home to a diverse group of species including ornamental fishes, corals, sea turtles, cetaceans, manta rays, and more. The region also supports important economic activity in eco-tourism, aquaculture, and recreational and aquarium fisheries.

Effective management of ecosystem services in the region must consider this broad range of human activities and natural processes. The goal of the IEA program is to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the Kona Coast ecosystem, from the land to the ocean, as a basis for providing scientific advice for ecosystem-based management decisions. The IEA process will ehance our ability to assess the Kona Coast ecosystem and provide information on current and predicted states of ecosystem health under different scenarios.

In the first year of the Kona Coast IEA project, initial steps of the IEA process will be completed, including a scoping exercise to understand what is known about the ecosystem and identify key management issues, ecosystem drivers, potential data sources, and relevant research projects on the western coast of Hawaii. Work on these initial steps has begun at the PIFSC. A working group has been formed and collaborations are being established between staff at PIFSC and partners in management agencies and federal, state and university institutions who conduct research in the Kona region.

A major idea of the IEA process is to use existing information while identifying data gaps and pressure points that determine future ecosystem monitoring requirements. Collaboration between federal, state, local, and academic partners will facilitate the process and allow sharing of resources. To date, PIFSC has begun partnerships with NOAA's National Ocean Service, the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, U.S. Geological Survey, the Kohala Center, Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources, University of Hawaii at Manoa (including the Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System, Hawaii Ocean Observing System, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, and the International Pacific Research Center), the University of Hawaii at Hilo, and the University of British Columbia Fisheries Center. PIFSC will expand the list of partnerships to include other important entities in the Kona Coast region, including commercial enterprises (e.g. Kona Blue, the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority), local organizations (Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament, West Hawaii Fisheries Council), and others.

Other major goals for the initial phase of the pilot IEA are to establish an interactive data portal on the project website and to begin single-year and multi-year IEA research projects. The data portal would serve as a central repository for currently available information for the region provide an interactive platform to view the information. Work has begun on two ecosystem modeling projects, and support has been provided to develop ecosystem indicators and conduct biological surveys of coral reef fish in the Kona region. The initial phase of the IEA should be completed within one year with the hope that the program will receive support to continue through additional years.

For additional information on the Kona IEA, please contact either Evan Howell or Jeffrey Polovina at the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center.

Timeline of currently-planned projects for the Kona Coast IEA, fiscal years 2010–2011.
Timeline of currently-planned projects for the Kona Coast IEA, fiscal years 2010–2011.