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East Maui residents working to preserve their coastline 

Special Interest Programme / Partner story

Photo credit: Hawai‘i Community Foundation

For Claudia Kalaola and the other kids who grew up in the 1960s in Hawai‘i, the reef and shoreline at Mū‘olea Point, along Maui’s eastern shore, represented more than just a place to play. “At five years old, we knew how to fish. We ate limu (seaweed) and ‘opihi (limpets) and whatever we caught. This was literally our icebox,” says Claudia.  

Mū‘olea, which is also a cultural gathering place, had been maintained by Native Hawaiians for centuries. However, in recent decades, Mū‘olea was starting to show signs of depletion: the walking trails to a local shrine and freshwater springs were overgrown, tidepools were being overfished, and an ancient coconut grove dating back to the arrival of the earliest Marquesas Polynesians had been left untended, attracting rats, among other issues. 

So, when area residents had the opportunity to purchase nearly 70 acres of coastal land around Mū‘olea from a former ranching company in 2004, the community partnered with local organisations to raise the funds. They organised and created a not-for-profit: Nā Mamo O Mū‘olea, or Nā Mamo for short, which is committed to managing and protecting Mū‘olea’s natural resources. “In ancient times, the konohiki [land division head] would manage an area and make sure there were resources for everyone,” says Claudia, the vice president of Nā Mamo. “Today, the community has to collectively act as konohiki.” 

To help preserve Mū‘olea’s declining limpet numbers, Nā Mamo volunteers created the state’s first limpet rest area, asking residents to limit their picking of the popular aquatic snail for a three year period. As a result, the area’s limpet population rebounded. Today, this rest area is reserved for kūpuna (elders), which helps prevent overfishing. 

To engage with the next generation, Nā Mamo launched the Hāna Limu Festival in 2009, an educational and cultural event where people can enjoy live Hawaiian music while they learn how to identify different types of seaweeds and limpets, and discuss with different sustainability not-for-profit organisations. “The goal is to raise awareness of the Mū‘olea nearshore ecosystem so the community can feel comfortable being on the land and being good stewards of the land,” says Claudia. 

Recently, Nā Mamo received a two-year grant from the Hawai‘i Community Foundation’s (HCF) Marine 30×30 Pooled Fund, as part of a cohort of Maui community groups working on nearshore marine management. The HCF’s pooled fund invests in communities across Hawaii, primarily through not-for-profit organisations such as Nā Mamo. As part of its commitment, the cohort will also receive technical assistance and capacity building support on a range of priority issues identified by the cohort members. 

“By supporting community organisations like Nā Mamo, HCF hopes to protect and restore Hawai‘i’s unique nearshore marine environments,” says Dana Okano, programme director at  the Hawai‘i Community Foundation. “The expertise and lived experience of these communities is really the best source for finding effective, appropriate solutions to the conservation challenges faced all across the Islands.” 

Oak Foundation supports the Hawai‘i Community Foundation and the Marine 30×30 Pooled Fund. The grant falls under our Special Interest Progamme, which covers a wide range of fields, including environment, health, humanitarian relief, education, and the arts. You can read more about the programme by clicking here. To find out more about the Hawai‘i Community Foundation and its Marine 30×30 Pooled Fund, visit its website here. To learn more about the work Nā Mamo O Mū‘olea is doing, email Claudia Kalaola at, or visit