About the West Hawaiʻi Integrated Ecosystems Assessment Project

Kona area

The purpose of an Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) is to perform a formal synthesis and quantitative analysis of information on relevant natural and socio-economic factors, specifically in relation to identified ecosystem management goals for a region. The IEA process helps enable an Ecosystem Approach to Management (EAM) and aims to involve citizens, scientists, resource managers, and policy makers. The Kona region was a natural choice for this pilot IEA project based on its dynamic ecology and the vast history of research done in this area. Home to a diverse group of species including ornamental fish, lush coral reefs, sea turtles, cetaceans and manta rays, the Kona coast of Hawaii is also home to eco-tourism, aquaculture industry, and recreational and aquarium fisheries. The balance of these human activities with the natural processes along the Kona coast is important to sustain ecosystem health in this important region.

This is a major goal of the NOAA IEA pilot project for the Kona coast. A complete understanding of the Kona ecosystem, from the land to the ocean, is essential to provide scientific advice used in making informed decisions in the Kona area. To this end, the PIFSC IEA program is working closely with federal, state, and academic partners to identify information and projects that are important issues on the western coast of Hawaii.

This first stage of the West Hawaiʻi IEA aims to complete the first important steps of the IEA process1. These include a scoping process to understand what is known about the system and to identify key management issues and potential data sources. Work on these initial steps has begun at the PIFSC, with a working group formed to identify issues of interest to the center around Kona. A major focus of the IEA however, is to form a collaborative effort between the NOAA PIFSC and managers of Federal, State and University institutions that conduct research in the Kona region. It is through this collaboration that we hope to identify common management issues of interest, as well as continue to identify important ecosystem drivers of the system. The desired result of this process is the ability to assess the Kona ecosystem, and to provide information on current and predicted states of ecosystem health under different scenarios.

A major idea of the IEA process is to use existing information during the process, while identifying gaps and pressure points that drive future ecosystem monitoring requirements. Working with other federal, state, academic, and local partners facilitate the process and allow shared resources to be used towards a common goal of a healthy Kona ecosystem. To date, the PIFSC has begun to work with partners including NOS, WPRFMC, USGS, The Kohala Center, Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources, UH Manoa (PacIOOS/HiOOS), Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, UH Hilo, The International Pacific Research Center, and the University of British Columbia Fisheries Center. The PIFSC will continue to expand their partnerships with other entities that have ties with the Kona region including industry (e.g. Kona Blue, NEHLA), local organizations (Hawaiian International Billfish tournament, West Hawaii Fisheries Council) and more.

Major goals for this initial phase of this pilot IEA aim to deliver a completed interactive data portal on the web as well as begin one and multi-year IEA projects. The data portal would serve as a central repository for currently available information for the region, as well as provide an interactive platform to view relevant information. To date work has begun on two ecosystem modeling projects as well as support given for building of ecosystem indicators and biological surveying of coral reef fish in the Kona region. The initial phase of the IEA should be completed within one year with the hope that this program will receive support to continue through additional years.

For additional information on the West Hawaiʻi IEA please contact Jamison Gove at the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center.