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Don’t pack the wrack, advises sea specialist

Recent rainstorms have brought an increase in vegetative debris to Maui’s beaches where ocean waves deposit this material in the “wrack line.”

The wrack refers to the line of debris that is washed up the beach with the tide and lingers as the waters recede. Made up of bits of seaweed, seeds and driftwood, most beachgoers probably barely notice it, or step over it on their way to the ocean for a swim.

While some may view it as a nuisance, the wrack is much more than a mere pile of rubbish, and as it breaks down over time, it forms an important habitat and serves a vital function for the plants and animals that share our beaches.

Pacific mole crabs (pe’eone) which camouflage themselves to perfectly match the unique sand coloration of the beach where they live can be found scavenging for a meal in the wrack, and two species of Hawaiian ghost crab (ohiki) may be seen at dusk hunting for insects amongst the debris.

Seabirds with wonderfully descriptive names like the ruddy turnstone (‘akekeke), sanderling (hunakai) and wandering tattler (‘ulili) flit about, poking around in the wrack for a treat.

The wrack also provides a valuable source of organic material that helps nourish dune plants growing in the nutrient-poor sandy soil.

Of course, human-made plastic or other rubbish in the wrack line can and should be cleaned up, but sticks and debris are a part of nature. Unless it’s causing a major hazard, the wrack should stay where it is.

Wesley Crile

UH Coastal Dune Restoration Specialist

Haiku

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