Surfrider members attend convention

HONOLULU — Six members of the executive committee represented Kauai’s Surfrider chapter at the annual Hawaii State Surfrider Conference earlier this month.

The event highlighted victories, challenges and new ideas and gathered together Surfrider chapters from Oahu, Maui, Kona and Hilo, as well as the University of Hawaii.

During the conference, held the first weekend in August at the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel, Kauai Chapter chair Carl Berg summarized the year’s accomplishments as well as future goals and campaigns.

In 2015, Blue Water Task Force volunteers collected 294 samples from 26 sites that were all tested for indicators of bacterial pollution. Beach cleanup and net patrol volunteers removed over 44,000 pounds of plastic pollution and derelict fishing gear, including nets and several pieces of Japan tsunami debris, from Kauai beaches.

The chapter was excited to report about several new campaigns like Ocean Friendly Gardens and Ocean Friendly Restaurants, two pro-active campaigns dealing with the problems of runoff and plastic pollution in the ocean. Future goals include looking at sunscreens, oxybenzone and coral reef health, and a single-use styrofoam ban for both the island and statewide.

Executive committee member Robert Zelkovsky was impressed with how the talks about the legal aspects of water pollution were woven into the talk by Mara Dias, Surfrider water quality manager.

“After the Flint, Michigan, environmental and legal fiasco, municipalities know they must be held accountable in protecting the public’s health, and Surfrider is a key piece of the puzzle,” Dias said in her speech.

The conference was hosted by the Oahu Chapter and organized by state co-ordinator Stuart Coleman and staff. It was also attended by several national Surfrider leaders, who met with a few government agencies while in Hawaii. The combination provided lots of lively discussions about many ocean topics.

Keynote speaker for the event was Denise Andolini, associate dean at University of Hawaii Law School. Andolini focused on the Environmental Court in Hawaii, which is a year old and the second of its kind in the U.S., after Vermont.

Andolini said there were already several specialty courts in the system such as Teen, Drug and Family courts, so it made sense for there to be an Environmental Court since the Hawaii environment faces many challenges.

Angela Howe, legal director for Surfrider, outlined Surfrider’s role in litigation and environmental campaigns. Surfrider is currently involved in 20 active litigations involving pollution, coastal management and beach access.

According to Zelkovsky, the group was “thrilled” about Hawaii DOH’s recent posting of two chronically polluted areas, Waiopili Stream on Kauai and Keehi Lagoon on Oahu, the site of the recent HCRA championship regatta whose pollution caused several paddling clubs to back out of the competition. But the real takeaway of the conversation was the desire for better communication between Surfrider, the EPA and the DOH, the need for posting of all chronically polluted water areas and the importance of citizen science.

Info: www.kauai.surfrider.org of Facebook: Kauai Surfrider.

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