Restoring the Nearshore Reef Habitat at Pāiko

Mālama Maunalua implements strategies to remove and prevent regrowth of invasive alien algae (IAA). The focus of our work is in the 28+ acres of Pāiko beach. Our goal is to clear the area of harmful algae to restore a marine habitat with healthy, native seagrass and alga.

Restoration Projects include:

Huki (large-scale, organized community events to “pull” or remove IAA at select plots)

Adopt-a-Plot (individuals trained to steward – huki and monitor – personal plots)

Seagrass Transplanting (piloted winter 2017)

Sea Urchin Seeding (pilot summer 2018)

The problem: Invasive Alien Algae

Invasive Alien Algae (IAA) are one of the greatest threats to Hawai’i’s coral reefs and nearshore marine ecosystems. These invasive, non-native marine algae species flourish off of an environment created by sediment and runoff from the land.  As IAA spreads, it grows over and smothers coral reefs and native algal communities, killing extensive areas of native habitat.

Three species of invasive algae are devastating Maunalua Bay: Gorilla Ogo (Gracilaria salicornia), Leather Mudweed (Avrainvillea amadelpha), and Prickly seaweed (Acanthophora spicifera).

great-huki-2010 June 19 FB Kanu HI Live Aloha Huki by Andrew Laurence IMG_0103

Huki Project

To date, one of Mālama Maunalua’s key initiatives in restoring the health of Maunalua Bay has involved removing invasive alien algae via regular volunteer-based hukis. Approximately 3,000 volunteers, including 1,000 students, participate in our 30+ community hukis every year, coming together to remove the Invasive Alien Algae (IAA) from Paiko beach. More than 3.5 million pounds have been removed and recycled as soil amendment at local farms. Even with schedule hukis several times a month, more volunteers are needed to help maintain the 1200 plots of IAA in Paiko beach. Mālama Maunalua leads an Adopt a Plot program in addition to the hukis where volunteers can help clear and maintain these plots on their own time.

Seagrass Restoration Initiative

The native Hawaiian seagrass Halophila hawaiiana used to be very dominant and once supported a diverse group of marine species. However, the rapid growth of invasive alien algae turned the Bay from a healthy diverse environment to a mud flat. Mālama Maunalua is currently working with consortium of experts in government, non-government, and academia who are working on ways to transplant the native seagrass into the areas that have been cleared from the hukis. Reestablishing the seagrass beds will take time; therefore, learning how to successfully transplant seagrass will speed up the restoration of the Bay.

Native seagrass

Sea Urchin Initiative

In June 2018, DLNR-DAR and MM launched the project to determine the efficacy of the native collector urchin as a bio-control mechanism to curb the growth of IAA at our Pāiko Restoration Area. After nearly six months of monitoring urchin health and IAA biomass, we are pleased to announce that urchins survived the relocation from deeper water to the nearshore reef flat and they appear to be eating all algae in the Bay, including mudweed. We quickly learned that urchins are very mobile! Each week, a team of interns monitor urchin health, IAA biomass, and herd the urchins back to the center of the designated plots.


By the numbers

Over 3.5 million 
pounds of invasive alien algae removed;

volunteers who have pulled algae with us;

Over 28 
acres of the bay has been maintained or cleared;

the year Mālama Maunalua began removing algae from the bay



We at Mālama Maunalua owe so much of our accomplishments to our dedicated and hard-working volunteers. To date, Mālama Maunalua has engaged over 15,000 volunteers comprised of students, community members, and corporate employees for hukis, outreach events, and internship opportunities. Visit our Volunteer page to learn more and find out how you can become one of the many volunteers committed to restoring Maunalua Bay.