Manager Climate Corps supports community collaborations at Kealakekua Bay

By Scott Laursen, Manager Climate Corps (MCC) Coordinator

Scott Laursen served on the Kealakekua Bay Community Action Plan (CAP) Steering Committee, lending MCC’s foundational elements to the CAP’s sole cross-cutting theme of relationality.


Photo courtesy of Kealakekua CAP


Kealakekua Bay is located on the western coast of Hawaiʻi Island and is a Marine Life Conservation District within one of the most sheltered natural bays on the island. Like many other Hawaiʻi communities, Kealakekua Bay faces severe challenges due to habitat degradation, overuse, tourism, and climate change impacts. To address these issues, in 2017, the local community initiated a process through which several non-profit and government agencies came together to root community involvement in all ongoing endeavors in the area (e.g., tourism, education, research, heritage management, ecological restoration, etc.). Ultimately in 2021 and 2022, by engaging all organizations through a community-driven process, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) facilitated the creation of the Kealakekua Bay Community Action Plan (CAP) as a way to sustain existing long-term community resilience and adaptation that has safeguarded the bay’s cultural and natural heritage for centuries.

Kealakekua Bay, Big Island aerial shot, Hawaii
Aerial shot of Kealakekua Bay (PC: Adobe Stock)

An outcome of the CAP process was the formation of a group called the Kapakapu ʻOhana (Kapakapu is the traditional name for Kealakekua Bay), a grassroots hub led by community members and lineal descendants connecting a range of non-profit, local, state, and federal organizations currently engaging the Kealakekua Bay area, including the Kealakekua Bay Cultural Advisory ʻOhana, Hoʻāla Kealakekua Nui (HKN), Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Division of State Parks, the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), Conservation International, the Coral Reef Alliance, and Fairwind Cruises. These organizations came together through the guidance of lineal descendants in Kapukapu to centralize and empower longstanding practices within Hikiau Heiau that have proven adaptive, resilient, and sustainable over centuries.

The Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center (PI-CASC) Manager Climate Corps (MCC) research program played an important role in developing the CAP. The MCC’s foundational elements were influential in creating the CAP’s sole cross-cutting theme of relationality. Relationality is a kinship model that elevates relationships across more-than-human and human communities and related knowledge experientially handed down over generations.

The CAP development process represented an exciting community-driven collaboration uniting the groups mentioned above. The collaboration was so successful that, as a result, the CAP was incorporated into the DLNR State Parksʻ Kealakekua Bay Master Plan and approved unanimously by the Hawaiʻi Board of Land and Natural Resources in October of 2023. After incorporation into the Master Plan, the CAP is currently being put into action through a coral restoration and research project called Kanu Ko‘a. This project is a shining example of a community-driven, descendent-led collaboration, showcasing a partnership between Kapukapu ʻOhana, TNC, HKN, and DAR. Together, these networks are working to restore the bay’s reef, with divers fragmenting coral pieces that have been broken from the reef by recent high swells, reattaching coral fragments directly back to the reef, and attaching some fragments to an in-water nursery table for subsequent outplanting on the reef.

For more information on the PI-CASC MCC’s detailed treatment of engaging diverse knowledge forms across worldviews, visit our MCC homepage or MCC Approach page. For further information, specifically on relationality, please see this publication. For further information on Kanu Koʻa, please see this recent TNC article.



Kapukapu ʻOhana. 2022. Kealakekua Bay Community Action Plan. Kealakekua Bay, Hawaiʻi Island. 41 pages.