HWF Recent News & Press Releases

September 14, 2020 – HONOLULU, HI
Article by Kamaka Pili, KHON2

HONOLULU (KHON2) – It was an eye-opening mission off the Kona coast of Hawaii Island.

Two separate debris cleanups remind us that much of the waste in our waters is because of us.

DLNR, State Parks, Hawaii Wildlife Fund and many from the Hawaiʻi Island community partnered together to remove nets, plastics and other debris from Keawaiki and Puako Bays in Kona….



August 2020 – HAWAIʻI ISLAND, HI
Article by Marcel Honore, Civil Beat

The EPA’s ruling on two beaches overwhelmed by marine debris could eventually force the state to take action elsewhere.

To get to Kamilo Beach, a Hawaiʻi shoreline notoriously plagued by plastic pollution, you need an off-road vehicle that can handle the hourlong, stomach-churning drive over dirt, dust and lava rock to the southern edge of the Big Island.

Staff and volunteers with the Hawaii Wildlife Fund have been making this rugged trip regularly for almost two decades. Since 2003, they’ve hauled a reported 290 tons of debris off the remote beach and surrounding coastline, including fishing nets so heavy that they needed a winch placed on a truck to lug the material from the shore.

These days, Kamilo looks cleaner than in years prior — at least at first glance. The frequent cleanups, sustained during the COVID-19 era, manage to keep the larger debris from piling up.

But look more closely and thousands of tiny plastic fragments still remain, dotting the shoreline with artificial pinks and blues and other bright colors that don’t belong.

Please CLICK HERE to read the entire article, with images and interviews, on the Civil Beat website.


Kamilo Beach Microplastics – photo by Kuʻu Kauanoe, Civil Beat



July 2020 – MAUI, HI

We did it! Molokini Marine Life Conservation District, a treasured marine reserve off the coast of Maui, is no longer in imminent danger. Working together, Hawaiʻii Wildlife Fund, Mike Severns Diving, Extended Horizons and community member Ameera Waterford sounded the alarm and collected 160,000 signatures in four days to prevent the US Navy from detonating a sunken ordnance that could have caused irreparable damage to this unique coral reef of the coast of Maui.

During WWII Molokini was used for target practice by the military both from air and sea. Some of those pieces of ordnance were detonated by the Navy in the 1970s and ’80s causing destruction to coral reef and the deaths of thousands of fish.

In 2018 two pieces of unexploded ordnance were reported to state officials, who contracted with the Navy to “remediate” them, even though they had been there for 70 years. Shockingly, the Navy had firm plans to use detonation as the solution again!

We consulted with community leaders and together sent the government our collective voices asking them to stop this, no matter what it takes. Non-destructive and safe removal or leaving in place are the only acceptable options.

“We have experience with the Navy’s detonations at Molokini and know that they can destroy the reef. Molokini is an important place culturally and environmentally and home to endangered species like hawksbill sea turtles and Hawaiian monk seals that are protected by law. Detonation is not acceptable,” said Hannah Bernard, Executive Director, Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund.


County Needs to Stop Denying the Injection Wells Problem and Fix It

June 2020

Download the PDF

Joint Statement of Plaintiff Community Groups
U.S. Supreme Court Issues Ruling in County of Maui v. Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund, et al.

Wailuku – May 2020

We, the people who challenged Maui County over its Lahaina injection wells, offer this joint statement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s April 23 ruling in our case. Our four groups – Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club Maui Group, Surfrider Foundation, and the West Maui Preservation Association – have advocated long and hard for the County to clean up its Lahaina wastewater mess. With this important victory at the highest court in the land, we’re one step closer.

The Supreme Court made clear that pollution cannot be released into navigable waters such as our ocean without a permit. You cannot get around that requirement by dumping the pollution into a hole near the ocean because that is the “functional equivalent” of dumping it into the ocean.
We, and people across the country, breathed a huge sigh of relief. The Supreme Court ruled firmly on the side of clean water, and against large-scale polluters that were looking for a groundwater loophole. From a strictly legal point of view, we got what we wanted, and the nightmare scenario of an open door for polluters was avoided. For clean water advocates across America, this was a big, big win.

To help the public understand more clearly what the Supreme Court decision means to our community, we will be posting the answers to some of the questions that we have been hearing from the community. We will also host a webinar in mid May where the community can get answers to specific questions about this historic case, its implications, and how we can move forward together to seek long-term solutions.

The Supreme Court sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals – which has already ruled that the County cannot avoid the permit requirement – to re-evaluate our case in light of the Supreme Court’s “functional equivalent” standard. The Ninth Circuit may, in turn, send the case back down to the federal district court that originally heard the case. Both the district court and the court of appeals have already ruled that the discharges from the Lahaina injection wells are the functional equivalent of direct discharges into the ocean and, thus, require a Clean Water Act permit. We are confident that they will do so again.

But we didn’t get in this fight to win lawsuits; we got in it to save reefs. The County now has a choice between delaying the inevitable by spending more taxpayer money, dragging out the lawsuit, or investing in fixing the problem, as we’ve been urging since day one.

Fortunately, there are solutions available, and they’re staring the County right in the face. The Lahaina plant was designed and intended to re-use the treated R-1 water to irrigate sugar cane; that’s why it’s called the Lahaina Wastewater ReclamationFacility. The sugar might be gone, but other agricultural needs have risen to take its place. The golf courses, hotel grounds, and diversified agriculture of West Maui are perfect candidates for irrigation with R-1 water. The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, which owns 800 acres of former sugar land, including several former plantation reservoirs just mauka of the injection wells, needs water for agricultural development. The state Water Commission, which has the kuleana of managing our fresh water resources, supports using R-1 water for agriculture, and conserving precious West Maui stream water in the process.
Re-use is the win-win scenario we should all get behind. The more R-1 we can use for irrigation, the less R-1 ends up in the ocean, polluting the water and destroying the reef.

The County Administration has already blown through millions of taxpayer dollars paying its hired gun mainland lawyers to make arguments that the Supreme Court ultimately rejected as “unreasonable.” It’s time for the government to stop kicking the can down the road and wasting money on a losing fight, and invest in the long-term health of our West Maui community instead. Working together to solve the problem will be the real win, and we remain committed to doing so. We are so grateful to the hundreds of community members and organizations who have shown up to support this historic effort for clean and healthy ocean waters.

Download PDF of Joint Statement

Victory: Court decision leaves in place vital protections for the nation’s oceans, rivers, lakes

APRIL 23, 2020 – WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today the Supreme Court issued its opinion in County of Maui v. Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund siding with clean water advocates that point source discharges to navigable waters through groundwater are regulated under the Clean Water Act.
The following is a statement from David Henkin, Earthjustice attorney who argued the case defending clean water:

“This decision is a huge victory for clean water. The Supreme Court has rejected the Trump administration’s effort to blow a big hole in the Clean Water Act’s protections for rivers, lakes, and oceans.”

CLICK HERE to read the entire article on the Earthjustice website.


Hannah Bernard, HWF Executive Director, at the Supreme Court

Nov 4, 2019 – WASHINGTON, D.C.

Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund’s Executive Director Hannah Bernard is traveling from Maui to Washington, D.C. this week to witness whether the Supreme Court will paint a roadmap for every polluter in the country to avoid regulation of the discharge of their pollution by the Clean Water Act.

WHEN: November 6, 2019 at 10:00 AM EST
WHERE: United States Supreme Court, Washington, D.C.
CASE: County of Maui v. Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund

The nation’s highest court will hear oral arguments on Wednesday, Nov. 6 in County of Maui v. Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund, a case that will decide whether the Clean Water Act regulates pollution discharges that “indirectly” enter protected waters, the outcome of which could imperil clean water across the nation. Oral arguments start at 10 AM EST.

“We hope that the letter and intent of the Clean Water Act are upheld by the US Supreme Court in our case, and that they rule in our favor, as the two previous courts have done, and continue to protect the nation’s lakes, rivers and nearshore waters,” said HWF’s Bernard. “After 12 years of fruitless negotiations and filing of this lawsuit, we are dismayed that our case was elevated to this level by Maui County’s mayor, since it defies the will of the people of Maui and the Maui County Council to protect our reefs.”

The case concerns a Maui wastewater facility that discharges millions of gallons of treated sewage each day into the Pacific Ocean via the groundwater beneath the facility, which has devastated a formerly pristine reef.

The County of Maui argues it does not need Clean Water Act permits for such an action because it is not discharging directly into waters protected by the Clean Water Act. However, the Clean water Act does not require a strictly “direct” injection of wastewater in waters of the U.S.

Earthjustice represents four Maui groups — Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club-Maui Group, Surfrider Foundation, and West Maui Preservation Association.
“We are arguing against Maui County’s extremist position that unless a pipe goes directly into the ocean or a lake and river, it is completely unregulated by the Clean Water Act,” said David Henkin, staff attorney from Earthjustice’s Mid-Pacific office who will be arguing the case.

“If the Supreme Court endorses the county’s position, it would open a massive loophole for every polluter in the country to avoid regulation of their discharges by the law that protects the nation’s waterways,” Henkin said.


Oct 2, 2019 – HONOLULU

Hawaiʻi’s corals are in peril, jeopardizing an important source of security, revenue and food for the state.

The ocean has been too hot for too long this summer for these tiny animals to handle. It’s causing the corals to expel the symbiotic algae that lives inside them, which leaves their bony skeletons fragile and white.

This is the third widespread coral bleaching in Hawaiʻi since 2014. It happened once in the 1980s and once again in the 1990s, scientists said, but it’s on track to become an annual event by 2040 without a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions globally and stronger resource management locally.

“The coral reefs of the future will undoubtedly look different than today,” said Jamison Gove, a research oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “But just how different will depend on us as a society.”

Government, university scientists and satellite companies have partnered to document the current bleaching event, which includes a way for citizens to report what they see in the water via the Hawaiʻi Coral Bleaching Tracker website.


maui reef polluted lahaina injection wells hawaii-wildlife-fund

Sept 20, 2019 – MAUI

Today the Maui County Council voted to settle Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund v. County of Maui, a decision to avoid an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court that could jeopardize clean water across the United States.

If you care about clean water, then you should care about this case. Referred to as the “Clean Water Case of the Century,” this lawsuit is so important that the fate of the nation’s clean water hangs in the balance. If the Supreme Court rules in the county’s favor, it will jeopardize clean water across the country. Hannah Bernard, HWF Executive Director, summarized the environmentalists’ goals, saying: “We are asking to resolve this problem at home, settle the case and stop polluting, start protecting!”

Following eight years of litigation introduced by Earthjustice on behalf of four Maui community groups — Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club-Maui Group, Surfrider Foundation and West Maui Preservation Association — Maui County Council agreed to settle the lawsuit here at home instead of appealing the case to the US Supreme Court. A negative ruling by the nation’s top court would have gutted the Clean Water Act. “The people of Maui — and the entire nation — are depending on Maui’s mayor to show real leadership and drop this misguided appeal,” said Bernard, who has been at the forefront of this fight for the past 12 years.

The back story: in 2012, HWF sued the county for allowing the island’s partially treated wastewater to reach the ocean and negatively impact coral reefs and marine life. The county lost the case twice, then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. But, after six months of local pressure, the County Council agreed to settle the case at home.

The following is a statement from Isaac Moriwake, managing attorney at Earthjustice’s Mid-Pacific Office: “The Maui County Council showed true leadership today in its decision to settle outside of court and not risk a historic standoff over the future of America’s clean water at the Supreme Court. This decision is a win not only for Maui, but for the country at large.”


June 17, 2019 – MAUI

More than 40 volunteers gathered on Maui to take on the very first “Hard to Reach Beach Clean Up” at legendary surf spot, Pe’ahi or “Jaws” along the island’s North Shore on Thursday.

A volunteer team of ocean lovers scoured over eight miles of the Maui coastline looking for plastic marine debris. In the early morning a fleet of Jet Skis and boats set off from Kahului Harbor and headed east.

The event was hosted by Love The Sea and supported by Handsome Bugga Productions, Elite Island Construction, Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund, Surfrider Maui, and Parley for the Oceans.

You can read about the simple importance of a toothbrush in a recent article that National Geographic published this June interviewing Sustainable Coastlines Hawaiʻi’s Founder and Parley for the Ocean’s CEO for Hawaiʻi, Kahi Paccarro.

“As we were cleaning the decades of accumulation, we watched as more washed ashore. We need to clean to maintain the coastlines, but cleaning is not the answer. We need to really focus on the source. We need to become better consumers, companies need to design better products, and governments need to regulate because we NEED to preserve our oceans,” said Paccarro.


May 9, 2019 – MAUI

Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund helped raise more than $16,000 this year to ship a prototype machine designed to remove small pieces of plastic marine debris from beach sand to the island of Hawaiʻi .

This one-of-a-kind machine, Hoʻōla One, was flown from Canada to Hawaiʻi Island in early March for extensive field testing. HWF’s team led by Megan Lamson upgraded it to 4WD to ensure it could survive the off-road journey to Kamilo, one of the debris-filled beaches that HWF’s Hawai’i Island Marine Debris Removal Project has been cleaning for over a decade.

In April, nine young engineers from the University of Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund raised money to bring the Hoola One from Canada to the island to filter micro-plastics out of the sand. Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada, flew in to help. Under the guidance of HWF co-founder Bill Gilmartin, who had inspired the engineers to invent a machine to help with HWF’s marine debris work, the Hoʻōla One was safely delivered to the rugged coastline.

HWF’s Team and volunteers have been cleaning Hawaii’s coast for 15 years and know first hand how difficult it is to collect micro-plastic debris, the tiny pieces of plastic that break down into smaller and smaller pieces.

By the time the machine left the beach, all the kinks had been ironed out. The Canadian engineers also trained four HWF team members how to operate the machine, so later this summer, HWF plans to bring Hoʻōla One back to Kamilo to continue the work of pulling micro-plastics from beach sand.

All debris collected are being saved for future re-use by artists and researchers.


May 1, 2019 – MAUI

Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund Executive Director Hannah Bernard gave a free public presentation on May 1 entitled “Thinking Like an Island: How to Survive the Plastic Pollution Pandemic.” The talk was part of the meeting of Maui Nui Marine Resource Council at The Sphere at Maui Ocean Center.

“While scientists and politicians may argue about climate change and its impact on our world ocean, the world is waking up to the devastating reality of the oceanic plastic plague,” said Bernard, the co-founder and executive director of Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund. “After several decades of local awareness-raising, we are at a tipping point worldwide where plastic pollution of the ocean is widely recognized as one of the greatest threats of our time to the ocean ecosystem and even human health.”
Bernard’s talk focused on ways individuals help turn the tide on the plastic plague and why there’s hope for the future.


February 19, 2019 – WASHINGTON, D.C.

In a case watched closely both by polluting industries and clean water advocates across the nation, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up an appeal of a Clean Water Act case out of Hawaiʻi concerning treated sewage flowing into the Pacific Ocean from injection wells.

“Although it has lost this wastewater case in two different courts already, the County of Maui is still pressing for its right to wreak environmental havoc on Hawaiʻi sensitive coral reefs, which form the basis of life in the tropical ocean,” Hannah Bernard, executive director of Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund, said, adding, “The positive aspect is that, as this case moves to the Supreme Court in Washington D.C, our local wastewater pollution issue will take the national stage, resulting in more people becoming aware of how important it is for us to be stewards of our oceans, especially for the waters that make up our own backyard.”

In 2012, four Maui community groups represented by Earthjustice – Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club-Maui Group, Surfrider Foundation and West Maui Preservation Association — sued Maui county, seeking to protect the sensitive coral reefs at Kahekili from harmful pollution. The County’s Lahaina wastewater facility injects 3 to 5 million gallons of treated sewage each day into groundwater that then transports the sewage to the ocean where it negatively impacts coral reefs.

Last March, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Maui county has been violating the federal Clean Water Act since its Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility was first put into operation in the early 1980s. So now the county is appealing its case to the Supreme Court whose verdict could be precedent setting for other cases involving ocean pollution.

E&E NEWS: Groundwater’s muddy legal history under the Clean Water Act
STAR ADVERTISER: Supreme Court case involves Lahaina wastewater plant
MAUI NEWS: U.S Supreme Court to hear injection well ruling appeal


Feb 14, 2019 – MAUI

Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund is one of two environmental groups that have filed suit to block the replacement of about 4,800 streetlight fixtures across Maui County with new LED fixtures, because the lights will pose a threat to seabirds and sea turtles.

The suit says that the county Department of Public Works violated the Hawaiʻi Environmental Policy Act by moving forward with the project, along with Maui Electric Co., without the legally mandated environmental review.

The new LED lights harm critically endangered hawksbill and green sea turtles, which nest at beaches in Maui County. Newly hatched turtles can be drawn to the lights, distracting them from reaching the protection of the ocean and leaving them vulnerable to predation and vehicle strikes. Bright lights can also divert adult turtles from laying eggs on the beach in the first place.

“A single bright light can kill hundreds of turtle hatchlings,” said Hannah Bernard, executive director and co-founder of Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund. “Because hawksbills are so rare, we simply can’t afford to allow the streetlights project to skate by without any environmental review.”



January 14, 2019 – HILO

Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund recently completed a Marine Resource Reconnaissance Survey along the Hawaiʻi island coastline following the May 2018 eruption on Kilauea volcano.

The researchers’ aim was to provide information about the health and state of sea turtles and other marine animals, following reports of stranded and impacted turtles during the course of the lava flow.

HWF’s team of researchers flew in airplanes over the impacted area taking photos and recording observations of wildlife, new pool habitats and marine debris.
The project was supported financially by an anonymous donor and has been submitted to more than 20 scientists and wildlife managers for peer review.

READ MORE: HWF Marine Resource Turtle Reconnaissance Survey

HWF Podcasts & News Broadcasts

Listen to The Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund and Maui’s Kai Kanani Luxury Catamaran Unite for the Health of our Oceans from Maximum Health:
“Quality Living” Radio on Apple Podcasts.

Oct 2020 – Hannah Bernard on The Voyagers Podcast – Available here.

July 2019 –  Titans of the Ocean – Maximum Health “Quality Living” Radio with HWF’s Hannah Bernard – Himalaya Podcast Episode.

Dec 2011 – HWF’s President, Megan Lamson, HWF Board member, Donna Kahakui and HWF Volunteer Terry Shibuya appear on the first ever Plastiphere Podcast (Episode 1).  Also available here on SoundCloud.