KAILUA, Hawaii – A $69,500 grant to the University of Hawaii Foundation that will allow a crucial fish-tagging project to continue is among $681,400 in grants approved by the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation board of directors this month to help support marine conservation, education and natural resource management programs.

The ‘Ō‘io Tagging Project (Phase II) is an effort to continue to track and scientifically study ‘ō‘io, a culturally significant bonefish that is a favorite catch in the Hawaii recreational fishing community. There are two types of ‘ō‘io: Roundjaws, which favor Oahu’s south shore, and Sharpjaws, which are found in the deeper waters of Kaneohe Bay and on Oahu’s west side. 

While Hawaii is one of the only places where the bony ‘ō‘io are eaten, many local anglers simply catch and release them.

“‘Ō‘io are the ideal group of fishes to work with to promote responsible fishing practices and encourage fishermen to contribute to scientific research that helps manage Hawaii’s coastal fisheries and provide ‘ō‘io life history to fishing enthusiasts, resource managers and legislators so that effective conservation strategies for all of Hawaii’s fisheries resources can be developed,” said Eric Co, Harold K.L. Castle Foundation’s Marine Program officer.

Co said there are 547 anglers registered in the ‘Ō‘io Tagging Project on Hawaii’s four main islands. Since 2006 they have logged more than 8,400 hours doing what they love to do: fish for ‘ō‘io. But instead of fishing for dinner or simply releasing the fish, they tag the fish before releasing them so ‘ō‘io life history and behavior can be studied. Since the project began in 2003, 2,621 ‘ō‘io have been tagged and released and 58 of those have been recaptured. 

“Better scientific information for ‘ō‘io is needed to ensure their proper management, and thus sustainable harvest,” said Terry George, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation. “The continuation of this project will not only help protect the two species of ‘ō‘io in Hawaii, but will also advance marine conservation in a way that involves Hawaii fishers.”

The second phase of the tagging and research project will include sharing scientific information gained through the project with the public through publication of articles in popular fishing magazines and websites, promoting conservation through sponsorship of tag-and-release fishing contests, and analyzing new and existing ‘ō‘io biological samples to create a complete life history of the ‘ō‘io and growth curve for both its species.

The project’s principal investigator is Dr. Alan Friedlander of the University of Hawaii’s Fisheries Ecology Research Laboratory in the Department of Biology. Seventy-two percent of the grant funds will cover a graduate research assistant, overseen by Friedlander, who will run the project for the next two years.

Other grants approved by the Foundation’s board of directors include:

·       $270,000 to the University of Hawaii Foundation to develop Native Hawaiian early-education standards, to increase public understanding of the importance of college and to strengthen the Hawaii P-20 organizational capacity. (Hawaii P-20 is a partnership between UH, the state Department of Education and the Executive Office on Early Learning; the partnership works to improve education statewide.)

·       $156,000 to the state Department of Education, Windward District, to support the “Redesign II” program at Castle High School, which is designed to build the community’s ability to help make learning engaging and relevant for all Castle students.

·       $52,500 to Hawaiian Island Ministries (HIM) to help improve the organizational structure and efficiency of this intermediary that builds leadership in churches across the state.

·       $35,000 to the State Department of Education, Windward Oahu District’s Castle Kahuku Complex, to increase student awareness of and interest in natural resource management as a college and career pathway.

·       $35,000 to Mental Health America of Hawaii to train Windward Community College faculty, staff and students to identify and respond to students with mental health challenges and to reduce the stigma of mental illness campus-wide.

·       $62,500 to Sustain Hawaii to design and build learning stations for sustainable living at the Palaka Moon Learning Center, a five-acre farm and demonstration and experimental learning site in Waimanalo.

 

For more information about the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, visit: www.castlefoundation.org.

The Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, the largest private foundation headquartered in Hawaii, is committed to closing the achievement and preparation gaps in public education so that all Hawaii’s children have access to high-quality pre-K-12 education that prepares them for success in college, career and citizenship. Its grants also focus on restoring nearshore marine ecosystems and strengthening Windward Oahu communities.

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