Ocean Awareness Training

In late 2008, Reef Watch Waikīkī joined forces with NOAA’s Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary to launch an Ocean Awareness Training program on O’ahu.

The program is designed to enhance awareness and promote responsible use and increased stewardship of Hawaii’s marine and coastal resources through a combination of classroom learning an hands-on stewardship experiences. Topics range from reef ecology, protected species, and marine life identification to coastal hazards, climate change, and resource management.

Participants also learn about ocean conservation efforts related to each topic and are provided with opportunities to get personally involved. While the program targets those employed or volunteering in the fields of marine education and recreation, registration is open to anyone who wants to learn more about Hawaii’s ocean environment. Instructors include university scientists, government agency staff, environmental educators, and conservation practitioners who donate their time to the effort.

Demonstrated Community Interest & Need

Ocean Awareness Training originates from an effort first organized on the island of Maui in 2006. The program’s immediate popularity and warm reception by marine recreation operators and conservation practitioners alike spurred the University of Hawai’i Sea Grant College Program’s (UH Sea Grant) Reef Watch Waikīkī team and NOAA’s Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (HIHWNMS) to work together to pilot the program on the island of O’ahu in November 2008.

Within two days of promoting the first O’ahu training session, the class hit its registration limit of 50 participants; within two weeks a wait-list of over 200 community members had been generated.

In response to the overwhelming interest, UH Sea Grant and HIHWNMS have managed to garner enough support from other partners to offer the program eight times between November 2008 and November 2011 for a total of 350+ participants in Hawai’i Kai, Waikīkī, Kāne’ohe, and the North Shore. Three sessions are anticipated for O’ahu in 2012, however, community interest continues to outpace staff time and available resources that can be directed to what started as a small, unfunded, pilot project. Organizations that have pledged to help host future training sessions represent communities in central and Leeward O’ahu, as well as communities on the islands of Hawai’i and Kaua’i.

Broad Based Support

On Oahu alone, more than two dozen organizations from the public and private sector have provided support to one or more training sessions, including:  National Marine Sanctuary Program (Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument); NOAA Fisheries (Protected Resources Division and Office of Law Enforcement); NOAA Marine Debris Program; State of Hawai’i Department of Land & Natural Resources (Division of Aquatic Resources and Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands); University of Hawai’i Marine Option Program; Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology; Kewalo Marine Laboratory; Waikīkī Aquarium; The Nature Conservancy; The Dolphin Institute; Friends of Hanauma Bay; Hawai’i Community Stewardship Network; Reef Check Hawai’i; Mālama na Honu; Mālama Maunalua; Surfrider Hawai’i Foundation; Mālama Pūpūkea-Waimea; Livable Hawai’i Kai Hui; Sustainable Coastlines Hawai’i, Kyo-ya Hotels & Resorts, and Turtle Bay Resort.

Each of these organizations has provided support in at least one of the following ways:  hosted a training venue; contributed monetary support; donated staff time for a speaker; provided support staff for training sessions; coordinated a field activity; and/or donated supplementary materials or supplies. The in-kind products and services provided by Kyo-ya Hotels & Resorts alone exceeds $15,000. The company provided a ballroom, hosted on-site parking for all participants, speakers and volunteers, and sponsored continental breakfast each day for two four-week training sessions held in March 2009 and November 2011 at its Sheraton Waikīkī property .

Training Format

Participants attend a series of classroom sessions (approximately 15 hours of instruction), and at least one 3-hour field activity in order to receive a C.O.R.A.L. certification card (Care of our Culture, Oceans, Reefs and Animal Life). Training topics fall into several broad themes: natural history of the Hawaiian Islands; marine protected species; marine life identification; threats to coastal and marine environments, and natural resource regulations and enforcement. The topics are woven together within the context of a native Hawaiian land management system– the ahupua‘a –that recognizes and honors the interconnectedness of land, man and sea. This roots the program in a local context and also puts an emphasis on helping participants make personal connections between their actions and the places, animals, and issues presented throughout the class

Personal connections are further reinforced through a field-based class session where participants apply some of what they have learned in an aquarium, marine lab, or natural setting. The program then culminates in a 3-hour field activity. For the field activity, participants are provided with a menu of options sponsored by partner organizations and must participate in at least one activity of their choice. Examples of past field activities include: conducting a reef survey with Reef Check Hawai’i, helping to remove invasive algae from Maunalua Bay, and shadowing a “honu guardian” (sea turtle naturalist) at Laniakea Beach.

Learn More

Additional information about Ocean Awareness Training, including opportunities on Maui, is available on the program’s website.

To be notified of future training opportunities on the island of O’ahu, sign-up on the O’ahu Waiting list.

If you would like to support the program by making a donation, hosting a venue, or providing supplies or services, please contact us directly.

About Jen B.

Jen is a self-professed do-gooder and jane-of-all-trades. Her current focus is helping nonprofits and community-minded businesses harness the power of the social web for social good through her company Connect Consulting.

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