Paniaka Restoration

Wetlands in south Maui historically served a significant cultural role for early settlements and an important ecological role for native flora and fauna. Beachfront development has drastically reduced both the number and size of Maui’s wetlands – however efforts are underway to restore and preserve Paniaka Wetland located near the southern end of Big Beach.

The Paniaka Restoration Project seeks to re-establish the wetland as a significant cultural and ecological site. Leading the effort is Pacific Whale Foundation, in partnership with the Oneloa Coalition, a group of community organizations and local residents dedicated to preserving Makena State Park. All restoration activities are being conducted under the aegis of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Makena State Park was created when the State of Hawaii purchased the 165 acres along the southwestern coastline in order to protect the area’s wilderness as well as three remaining wetlands: Paniaka, North Pu'u Ola'i, and South Pu'u Ola'i.

Today, Paniaka and its environs have been colonized by a number of non-native and invasive plant species, which are not only altering the physical landscape and natural ecosystem, but also restricting the growth of native plants. In addition, predators introduced into the area are hindering the recovery of key species, particularly endangered birds.

The Paniaka Restoration Project will restore native flora and fauna within and around the area, which includes removing alien vegetation, trapping and removing predators, installing a predator fence, and conserving the area once restored.

The second phase of the project will be to establish Paniaka Wetland as a tourism destination for the approximately 450,000 people who visit Makena State Park annually. This will involve improving access to the area, installing interpretive signage, and conducting naturalist-guided tours.

Pacific Whale Foundation is well poised to lead the restoration effort, having pioneered research, education, conservation and volunteer service programs on Maui for over 37 years. The project is expected to be completed in late 2018.

Public input and participation is crucial to the success of restoring Paniaka. Groups and individuals interested in getting involved as volunteers or supporters can contact research@pacifiwhale.org or visit www.pacificwhale.org/conservation online.

paniaka fish pond map