Humpback whale hat-making has become a favorite kids' activity at sanctuary outreach events.

Kauai Ocean Fair
explores Pacific life

The fair this year will have as its
guest of honor Jean-Michel
Cousteau, famed sea explorer
Jacques Cousteau's son

By Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi
Special to the Star-Bulletin

Seventy million square miles of undulating blue, the Pacific is the world's largest and deepest ocean. Stretching from the Arctic to the Antarctic and from the coasts of the Americas to the shores of Asia, it covers one-third of Earth's surface and harbors a wealth of wildlife, a fascinating and unique variety of which thrives in the waters surrounding Hawaii.

Now in its fifth year, the Kauai Family Ocean Fair celebrates the wondrous diversity of the Pacific through games, crafts, exhibits, entertainment, workshops and presentations by prominent marine scientists, including renowned ocean explorer, educator and film producer Jean-Michel Cousteau, the eldest son of the late ocean pioneer Jacques Cousteau.

Santuary Kauai Liaison Jean Souza uses craft actvities to teach ocean awareness.

Fair sponsors include the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. The latter, a 200-acre refuge resting on the rim of an ancient volcano, provides the perfect backdrop for the event. The site's sheer ledges and serrated cliffs are home to dozens of species of seabirds, while endangered Hawaiian monk seals and sea turtles often play in coves that lie at the base of the 216-foot-high promontory where Kilauea Lighthouse, built in 1909, stands. The venerable lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The HIHWNMS was established in 1997 to protect the endangered humpback whales that migrate to Hawaii from Alaska each winter. Administered by a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the state Department of Land & Natural Resources, the sanctuary covers about 1,400 square miles of noncontiguous coastal waters surrounding the main Hawaiian islands.

Fifth Kauai Family Ocean Fair

Where: Kilauea Lighthouse at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, located on Kauai's north shore
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
Admission: Free
Call: 246-2860
Parking: There will be free public parking in designated lots in Kilauea; look for the signs. The main parking lot will be at the Kauai Christian Academy on Kilauea Road. Free shuttle bus service will run continuously between the fair and the parking lots. Handicapped parking will be available at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.

"Kilauea Point is a rich setting for the Family Ocean Fair because it is one of the few places in the United States where the waters of a national marine sanctuary break upon the shores of a national wildlife refuge," said Jean Nishida Souza, Kauai liaison for the HIHWNMS and coordinator of the event. "Where else can you go and take in the sight of humpback whales, including mothers with their calves, Hawaiian monk seals, nesting colonies of the red-footed booby, ground-nesting wedge-tailed shearwaters and Laysan albatross?"

The nene, Hawaii's state bird, can often be seen close up and flying in formation around the point.

The fair brings together ocean users, ocean resources managers, government agencies, researchers, educators and the public for a day of sharing and discovery. This year, exhibitors will be offering free interactive activities; for example, the National Weather Service will have several gadgets for visitors to learn about wind conditions, air pressure, solar energy and weather stations. The Kauai Children's Discovery Museum, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council are among the other organizations that will be mounting displays.

Meanwhile, kids will be kept busy making refrigerator magnets in various ocean designs or painting underwater scenes in pastels and watercolors. At a workshop for educators (schoolteachers, Scout leaders, docents, home-school parents, etc.), new instructional materials on humpback whales will be distributed, including an updated handbook and a packet of information about the HIHWNMS.

Lectures will cover topics as diverse as "Entangled Whales -- What Do We Know? What Do We Do?" and "Coral Reef Ecosystems in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands." Through music and dance, Ohia Productions, a Honolulu troupe, will describe what happens "In the Clear Blue Sea," an original theatrical production.

"The ocean fair assembles many different experts in one place so that anyone who is the least bit curious about the ocean is sure to come away from the event with increased awareness," Souza said. "We make it fun and easy for people to learn about the ocean and its inhabitants."

Jean-Michel Cousteau, the fair's guest of honor, will deliver the keynote speech and sign Robert Lyn Nelson's poster "From Sea to Shining Sea" as a benefit for the recently established National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, whose goal is to broaden citizen support for all national marine sanctuaries. Cousteau is a trustee of the foundation, as well as president of Ocean Futures Society, a nonprofit organization that researches and educates the public about marine issues. He served as a global symbol of the environment in the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics, and is committed to perpetuating his family's legacy of underwater exploration and advocacy.

Souza believes that in going about their daily business, people forget how much the ocean affects the quality of life.

"Fair-goers don't just learn about nature here; they experience its awesomeness, variety and spontaneity," she said. "We find this is the key to stewardship because it is through experience that people make the emotional connection that will inspire them to help protect our natural resources."

Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based free-lance writer.

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