Improving Water Clarity & Quality

A partnership is now working together to return native Hawaiian oysters to their namesake waters, Pearl Harbor.

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 The Navy, O‘ahu Waterkeeper, and the Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center (“PACRC”) at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo are restoring native oysters to improve water clarity and quality.  "In restoring native oysters, we have the opportunity to come together at home, to malama our own waters,” reflected Nainoa Thompson, who visited the Billion Oyster Project - a large-scale oyster restoration initiative in New York Harbor in partnership with Hudson Riverkeeper.


Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Rear Admiral Brian Fort Lower Oyster Cages into the Water with assistance from Marian Phillipson of O'ahu Waterkeeper.

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The oysters are kept in cages to protect them from predators.  These oysters cannot be eaten, they are for restoration only.  Commercial oysters are grow in clean water under strict regulations.

Nainoa Thompson encouraged efforts to actively care for the area's natural and cultural resources.

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Hokule'a’s historic first visit to Pearl Harbor one year ago nurtured the connection that the community feels to the area’s natural and cultural history.

Our Waters Need Your Help

Your support helps us to improve water quality, and furthers our mission to ensure fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters for future generations. 

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Waterkeepers Mission

Waiwai Ola Waterkeepers Hawaiian Islands is an environmental non-profit organization.  Waterkeepers work to protect the ability of present and future generations to swim, fish, drink, and otherwise use and enjoy the waters that support the people and culture of Hawai‘i.  


Every day, polluted runoff and pathogens from antiquated wastewater infrastructure contaminate our fresh and marine water resources.  Many popular beaches across the islands have been closed repeatedly due to concerns for water quality.  


The quality of our water resources will determine our quality of life.  

“Ola i ka wai” - Water Is Life. 


Although our problems are daunting, there is still hope.  Some of our challenges are similar to other coastal communities around the world that have already begun to lay the foundation for their clean water futures.   Waterkeepers Hawaiian Islands is engaging innovative solutions to address local water quality challenges.


Clean Water Under Our Homes

In partnership with the Hawai‘i Department of Health, we are working to identify low cost alternatives to cesspools.  More efficient wastewater infrastructure will reduce bacteria levels and pathogens in our water resources.

Oysters Improve Water Quality

The first Waterkeeper project in Hawai‘i, led by O'ahu Waterkeeper, is the restoration of native oysters to actively improve water clarity and quality at locations around O'ahu.  We are working in partnership with the Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center (“PACRC”) at UH Hilo to deploy cages of native oysters in nearshore waters.  


Filter feeding bivalves such as oysters can improve water quality by removing harmful pollutants that enter the ocean from wastewater and stormwater, as well as industrial and agricultural runoff. Oysters also remove carbon from the water and use it to build their shells, underscoring their importance in our changing climate and marine environment.  


The restoration project is modeled after several successful partnerships with Waterkeeper organizations on the East Coast involving the restoration of native oysters for bioremediation.  The restoration projects are made possible with support from private donors including Douglas Emmett, the Chee Family Foundation, and the Sangham Foundation.


This project has deep cultural and historical significance.  Native shellfish species were once abundant as expressed through Native Hawaiian chants, songs, and legends.  The new project involves the restoration of two species of native shellfish whose populations have declined in modern times:  Dendostrea sandvicensis (Hawaiian Oyster) and Pinctada margaritifera (Black-lip Pearl Oyster).

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Oysters to the Rescue!

About Us

Rhiannon Chandler-'Iao, Executive Director pictured here with Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

      Rhiannon “Rae” Tereari‘i Chandler-‘Īao (pictured here with Robert F. Kennedy Jr.) serves as the Executive Director and O‘ahu Waterkeeper for Waterkeepers Hawaiian Islands.  After graduating from William S. Richardson School of Law in 2016 with certificates in both Native Hawaiian Rights Law and Environmental Law, she worked as a Post-J.D. Research & Teaching Fellow at Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law.  

     Prior to attending law school, Rhiannon served as the Executive Director of the environmental non-profit organization Community Work Day Program, d.b.a. Mālama Maui Nui.  While on Maui, she served as a member of the Maui County Cultural Resources Commission, the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council, and the Steering Committee of Ka Ipu Kukui Fellows Leadership Program.   

   Waterkeepers Hawaiian Islands is led by the Board Members of O'ahu Waterkeeper - President:  Wendy Wiltse, Ph.D.,  Vice President: Denise Darval-Chang, Treasurer: Maile Goo, Psy.D., Secretary: Nikki DeHeart, and Anne Brasher, Ph.D., as well as Advisory Council Members of Kona Coast Waterkeeper and the proposed Hilo Bay Waterkeeper.

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About Waterkeeper Alliance

     Under the direction of Board President Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Waterkeeper Alliance is a global movement to protect water resources, currently uniting more than 340 Waterkeeper Organizations and Affiliates  throughout over 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa. 

View Recent Articles

Waikiki Aquarium Magazine Article (pdf)

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Midweek Good Neighbor Article (pdf)

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Stay Wild Magazine Clean Water Article (pdf)

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Oysters in the News!

Hawai'i Public Radio

Native Hawaiian Oysters

 Rhiannon "Rae" Tereari'i Chandler-'Iao discusses upcoming oyster projects on Hawai'i Public Radio's    "The Conversation"

Big Island Now

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Find out more about the use of oysters to help improve water quality in Pearl Harbor

KHON2 Morning News

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O'ahu Waterkeeper Vice President Marian Phillipson and Navy Biologist Becky Springer explain the history of oysters in Pearl Harbor and describe the native oyster restoration project 

Adopt a Native Oyster 'Ohana to Improve Water Quality

 Native oysters are filter feeders that remove harmful pollutants including sediment, bacteria, heavy metals, PCBs, oil, microplastics, sunscreen chemicals, and nutrients from the water column.                  

                                                                                                     

One adult Hawaiian Oyster (Dendostrea sandvicensis) can filter approximately 20 gallons of water per day.  Each ‘ohana of 25 oyster brothers and sisters can filter approximately 500 gallons of water per day.  Your donation of $25.00 will support the cost of 25 oysters and the aquapurse that protects them from predation by crabs and other marine animals.  

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Waterkeepers in Hawai'i

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