Marine research center proposed for Kawaihae Harbor

  • A whale swims close to a Kohala Blue boat earlier this month off the leeward coast of the Big Island. (Courtesy photo / Kohala Blue screen grab)
  • Conceptual illustration of proposed marine science center. (Hookuleana LLC/courtesy)

HILO — A nonprofit group dedicated to recording whale songs wants to build a marine science center at Kawaihae Small Boat Harbor, and it’s secured support from a number of political, Native Hawaiian and marine backers.

The applicant, Jupiter Research Foundation, is based in Los Altos, California, and Puako.


In addition to its work with whales, the foundation also delves into wave glider instrumentation and the electrical behavior of plants, according to its website. Its focus for the proposed marine research center is global warming and climate change as well as dissolved plastics in the ocean that may be entering the food chain.

“We are very aware that our oceans are in big trouble, with global warming, ocean acidification, coral bleaching and plastic contamination,” said Chadd Onohi Paishon, senior captain, Na Kalai Wa’a, in a Sept. 23 letter of support. “As a participant of the recent Malama Honua Voyage which sailed Hokulea around the world, we have seen this first hand.”

State Sen. Lorraine Inouye, a North Hawaii Democrat, also supports the plan. She said the location provides convenient access for residents, visitors and schoolchildren.

“Kawaihae is a significant location for marine studies — in particular humpback whales and other marine mammals — with clear and protected waters and accessible reefs,” Inouye said. “The entire coastline has served as a living laboratory for a number of marine science programs and organizations as well as our local schools.”

Jupiter Research seeks to lease 1 1/2 to 2 acres of state-owned land at Kawaihae Small Boat Harbor – South at market rates. It plans to construct an office building, with a conference room, a small kitchen, restrooms, a machine/electronics workshop, a storage area and an attached garage for its research vessel, the May Maru. Jupiter will install fencing, landscaping and the necessary underground utility extensions.

The plan anticipates 17 office employees and three boat employees.

The main building would be approximately 14,000 square feet. The attached boat garage would be approximately 2,400 square feet, according to a 206-page proposed finding of no significant environmental impact report released Saturday by the state Office of Environmental Quality Control.

The plan for the facility is to incorporate green design practices including photovoltaic panels, solar-powered air vents, xeriscape landscaping using native plant species and seawater-cooled air conditioning, where possible.

The public has until April 22 to comment on the plan. The full report can be found at


Comments can be sent to the approving agency, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, Ed Underwood, 587-1966,, 4 Sand Island Access Rd., Honolulu, HI 96819.

Copies of comments should also be sent to the applicant, Jupiter Research Foundation, 41 Puako Beach Dr., Kamuela, HI 96743 Beth Goodwin, 443-1947, and consultant Hookuleana LLC, 1539 Kanapuu Dr., Kailua, HI 96734, Peter T. Young, 226-3567,

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