On November 4th and 5th, the Eyes of the Reef (EOR) Island Coordinators came together with the Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), and supporting agency partners to continue to update and improve upon Hawaii’s Rapid Response Contingency Plan (RRCP). The RRCP, which was written in 2009, provides a framework for managers and scientists to assess unusual events of coral bleaching, disease, and Crown-Of-Thorns Starfish (COTS) outbreaks.
Dr. Greta Aeby (HIMB, Oahu EOR Coordinator, and co-author of the RRCP) spoke to the group about how the RRCP works and the lessons learned in the first five years of assessments. Linda Preskitt (Big Island EOR Coordinator) gave an overview of the EOR training program and highlighted the passion of EOR Network members. Darla White (DAR, Maui EOR Coordinator) and Scott Bacon (Kauai EOR Coordinator) also provided significant insights based on their experience receiving and verifying EOR reports, leading EOR trainings, and conducting outreach in their communities.
The workshop was organized by Anne Rosinski, the current NOAA Coral Reef Management Fellow at DAR who has been acting as the State’s RRCP coordinator, with the help of DAR Planner Emma Anders and a multi-agency team of facilitators. Additional parts of the plan that were addressed were forming a decision-making structure to use when unusual events are observed, the formation of DAR-lead Rapid Response Teams on each island, communication plans, and finance strategies. In addition to the workshop, Anne has also been working to improve communications, data management, and real-time coordination during RRCP events throughout the first year of her two year fellowship.
The next steps in enhancing and updating the RRCP will be to provide training to the DAR Rapid Response Teams, finalize the updates to the 2009 document, and continue improvements in tracking the long-term trends of these events. A general theme emerged throughout the workshop – that it will take all parts of this RRCP team to make assessing coral disease, bleaching, and COTS possible. Managers, scientists, NGOs, and communities will all play a role in monitoring the effect of these events on Hawaii’s coral reefs. EOR Network members do their part by reporting any unusual observations of coral disease, bleaching, or COTS through the online reports system (www.eorhawaii.org/make-a-report).