Red Water Bones

Many of the bonefish flats here on Oahu include mangroves. In some areas, the mangroves line the shore and in others they have grown up around small, sandy islets. The mangroves are not native to Hawaii, but they are happy here and have spread steadily over the past decade. Recently, the government made the decision to remove the mangroves from one of the main fishing areas near Honolulu.

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While I do not believe that Hawaii can ever be restored to it’s “native” condition, whatever that means, I do firmly believe that active management can be a good thing, and that efforts to maintain the presence of native species and landscapes is worthwhile.

However, there is an irony at work here that leaves me ambivalent about removing all of the trees. From a global perspective, mangrove forests are rapidly disappearing as a result of coastal development, which is bad because they are even more effective at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than other types of forests.

Also, there has been concern among both recreational users and professional fishing guides about the impacts, both short- and long-term, the project will have on the fish population.

Whatever I think, the removal has begun, so I thought I would document some of the effects we have noticed thus far.

Although the tree roots are not being pulled up, the work has disturbed the soil and created a swath of discolored water that is pushed down the flat by the prevailing winds. The water is brownish but, with polarized glasses, it appears quite red. It is also disturbingly warm, and smells like baby poop.

While the bonefish seem to avoid the area where the actual removal is occurring, they do not avoid the red water. In fact, some days they seem attracted to it. So for now, at least, I can’t complain too much.

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