Isle Sea Grant position funding secured


Funding has been found to restore the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program extension specialist position in West Hawaii, thanks to a unique collaboration.

The Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center at UH-Hilo has partnered with Sea Grant to create the “incredibly important” position. Each agency agreed to undertake 50 percent of the funding needed and the money comes from annual budgets, said Cindy Knapman, Sea Grant spokeswoman. She couldn’t provide further funding specifics.

The position in West Hawaii, funded for more than 12 years, ended when Sara Peck retired Aug. 31, 2011. Three months later, Sea Grant said it couldn’t supply the necessary funds to keep the position or its Kailua-Kona office going. Part of UH-Manoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, Sea Grant seeks to improve understanding and stewardship of coastal and marine resources.

For more than a year, Chantal Chung, assistant to the West Hawaii extension specialist, has carried on several programs, such as the ReefTalks and ReefWatchers. Chung said numerous West Hawaii residents have offered their help and lobbied Sea Grant to reinstate the position, which also got support from Rep. Cindy Evans, D-North Kona, South Kohala.

Chung also credited Sea Grant for working “very hard” to find ways to have this “pivotal position that many care deeply about.” She described extension specialists as “the glue,” saying they help build an understanding of diverse and complex issues for informed decision-making. They also work in partnership, linking resources and expertise with local communities and user groups.

The full-time specialist will not just focus on West Hawaii. Instead, the individual will focus on, plan and conduct activities islandwide pertaining to sustainable coastal development, a safe and sustainable seafood supply, hazard-resilient coastal communities, sustainable coastal tourism and coastal ecosystem health, Knapman said.

The specialist will also work closely with the Sea Grant Center for Sustainable Aquaculture, based at the Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center, helping create infrastructure that supports world-class aquaculture, marine science and conservation biology programs. The Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center director will provide general supervision, Knapman said.

“The urgent need for practical solutions to coastal problems requires coordination, cooperation and partnerships. This is particularly true in Hawaii, where the challenges are compounded by the geographical location and distance from the nearest continental landmass,” according to Sea Grant.

“The new faculty will be tasked with addressing the critical needs and opportunities inherent with living in an island environment, and working to achieve a sustainable and diversified economy that supports our communities while also protecting our unique ecosystems.”

The job announcement, available at pers.hawaii.edu/wuh/Jobs/ NAdvert/15693/ 1779471/1/postdate/desc, was posted Nov. 13 and the closing date is Dec. 4. The specialist could be hired and working in the community as soon as the beginning of next year, Knapman said.

Chung said she will stay in her position until at least June 2013.

She looks forward to working with a specialist again and being a bridge between that individual and the community.