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January, 2010:

HoloHolo Links

Hamakua Coast by stevecadman via Flickr

Hamakua Coast by stevecadman via Flickr

Dolphins: Harrassed, Endangered, Totally Appealling


Sea Party by Juvetson via Flickr

A small population of dolphins that live near Hawaii and resemble killer whales could be placed on the endangered species list, a federal agency said yesterday. Such an action could affect Hawaii-based longline fishing boats, which have accidentally snagged the dolphins — called false killer whales — in the past. — Hawaii Star Bulletin

It’s fairly common to see spinner dolphins messing around in the surf when you go out on the snorkel tours in the islands, the black dolphin or false killer whale — so called because they look vaguely like orcas — is less common and now, we know why.

The fishery is accidentally killing or seriously injuring an average of 7.4 false killer whales each year in waters off Hawaii, the National Marine Fisheries Service said in a Federal Register notice. That exceeds the 2.5 per year that the population can lose without hurting its ability to sustain itself. — The Maui News

Spinners aren’t endangered, but they’ve got their own worries. Operators will take you out to swim with them in their waters and not everyone thinks this is a great idea, it can be super stressful on the dolphin population. There’s criticism on the Wild Dolphin Foundation’s website — they recommend you participate in a Dolphin Smart tour, which you can learn more about  here. Places like Sea Life Park and the Hilton Waikaloa Village have swim with the dolphins “experiences” where you’ll climb in to a pool, but  these contained adventures have their critics too. If you want to learn more about Hawaii’s dolphins, there’s the Dolphin Institute — they have lots of educational programs but not much for folks who are just passing through the islands on a visit.

There’s no denying that it’s a magical thing to see dolphins skipping around in the open ocean. I’d probably explode from excitement were I to participate in a dolphin encounter of any kind, be it in a tank or in the open water. And I know I’d walk away feeling a lot better about the whole thing if the adventure were approved by a conservation organization. Sail Hawaii works with the Wild Dolphin Foundation and that seems like a good thing.

My advice?  Ask your tour provider whether they partner with conversation efforts before booking a trip. If you want to see dolphins — and really, who doesn’t — why not make sure the company that’s showing them to you has their best interests in mind?

The Farmer’s Market that Comes to You

A new Farmers Market has recently debuted on the front lawn at Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa. The market is open from 8:00 a.m. until noon each Wednesday.  This market is now in addition to a Saturday morning farmers market at the nearby Keauhou Shopping Center.

Along with local farm-fresh fruit, produce, coffee, and flowers, vendors also offer craft products with primary ingredients or materials that come from Hawaii Island’s land or waters.

I love the idea of falling out of my hotel bedroom into a farmer’s market first thing in the morning, without even having to tumble into my rental car. There’s freedom from the buffet and easy access to exotic local produce. Plus, there’s something about this idea that breaks the wall — just a little — between visitors to Hawaii and the locals that grow food in the islands.

This looks like both really smart marketing and a lovely, community minded action on the part of the Sheraton. For a traveler who enjoys a little luxury but still wants to experience some “real” Hawaii, the Sheraton Keauhou Bay just got more attractive.

Farmers Market, Hilo

Farmer's Market, Hilo by Kanu Hawaii via Flickr

Having a farmer’s market on your hotel grounds, doesn’t let you off the hook for exploring other markets in the islands. You’ll find great food, yummy local produce, beautiful flowers, maybe some nice locally made souvenirs,a little entertainment, perhaps, and you can’t beat the people watching.

The Hawaii Department of Agriculture keeps a list of farmer’s markets here — click through the island names to get the latest information. Go on, you need snacks to fuel your island adventures. Get a papaya or two and some flowers for your room.

Imported Labor and Hawaii’s Culture

The owners of Hawaii’s second-largest fruit and vegetable farm will plead guilty to charges of importing laborers from Thailand to force them to work, court records show. — ABC News

In this day and age, it’s shocking to learn that importing workers for forced labor — to the US, no less — could happen. There is, however a long history of imported workers for hard labor on the pineapple and sugar cane plantations throughout the islands. The influx of these workers — from Japan, the Philippines, China, all over the Pacific — that’s contributed to Hawaii’s amazing mix of cultures.

Japanese plantation worker/actor via Flickr

Japanese plantation worker/actor via gochie* on Flickr

There’s an interesting read about the history of labor in Hawaii here. The accelerated version? Native Hawaiians, who had been subsistence farmers, were not so keen on plantation conditions and eventually, walked off the job. Imported foreigners filled the gap, though conditions remained bad enough that workers overlooked their cultural differences and joined together to create a union. [Read the whole thing, this is just my summary.]

Sugar and pineapple are fading from the Hawaiian landscape, replaced the land eating monster that is real estate. Maui Pineapple managed to get a stay of execution, saving jobs and the Maui Gold brand, but Kauai’s sugar plantation shuttered last year. Even though the farmlands are struggling, the impact of those immigrants who worked the fields remains strong, on the faces of the people of Hawaii, the variety in food, and the fantastic mix of culture that makes Hawaii so appealing and fascinating.

Just a disclaimer: While I’m interested in the role that immigrant cultures played in developing Hawaii’s modern personality, I have no desire to trivialize the seriousness of the current slave labor issue. There’s a critical  look at the what happened on Aloun farms here.

January is Volcano Awareness Month

In a Proclamation from the County of Hawai’i, January 2010 has been designated “Volcano Awareness Month.” Throughout the month, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), in cooperation with Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Hawai’i County Civil Defense, and the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, will sponsor various events to promote the importance of understanding and respecting the volcanoes on which we live.–USGS Hawaii

For Sale by Owner via [] on Flickr

For Sale by Owner via Tuman on Flickr

Imagine your home being buried under lava. Imagine your neighborhood destroyed by a creeping sea of liquid rock. The mind boggles, but it’s what happened in the town of Kalapana on the Big Island in 1990.

Ten years later, the USGS has declared Volcano Awareness Month, though certainly the (former) residents of Kalapana have been super aware of Kiluea for the last decade, it changed their lives. If you’ve got a four wheel drive vehicle, you can visit Kalapana, though it’s likely you’ll invalidate your rental car contract. There are some tour companies that will take you out there — and to Kapoho, another site taken by lava in 1960.

The Big Island remains an amazing place to become, well, aware, that you’re standing on a live volcano — even if you can’t see live lava, you can walk around on the open steam vents and sulfur flecked surface in Volcanoes National Park. Any time of year is a good time to learn a little geology, though during the month of January, there are additional activities on the calendar.