University of Hawaii scientists have confirmed a disease has hit Hanalei Bay on Kauai's north shore. It is killing coral at an alarming rate and researchers are trying different ways to stop it.
Pictures show the diseased rice coral has a light color which is dead. A black ring is the disease working its way through the orange healthy section.
"We know it's an outbreak, we know it's a problem, we know it's killing corals and now we're working to see what is causing the problem here," said Greta Aeby, PhD. a coral expert with the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.
Dr. Aeby verified the disease last week. She and her team are trying to stop the disease by covering it with marine putty, similar to a fire break approach used in a wildfire.
"Underlying all of this, you can't keep treating the symptoms, you have to treat the underlying cause," said Dr. Aeby.
The cause she says includes over fishing, pollution, sewage spills and anything that negatively affects water quality.
"What we are doing right now, the rules and regulations we have right now are not working. We need to do something different if we are to leave these reefs in a decent condition for our kids and grandkids and grandkids," said Dr. Aeby.
On Kauai some think the disease is a bacterium also making surfers and wildlife sick.
"We don't know if there is a link between fish disease, turtle disease, surfer disease or coral disease. We don't know that link yet," said Dr. Aeby.
She does know without coral the ocean ecosystem will fall.
"The coral is the foundation for the whole ecosystem. It grows and makes the structures that make the houses for all the other little critters and little fish which the bigger fish eat and the bigger fish eat," said Dr. Aeby.
"We're pretty much at the tipping balance for us in Hawaii. We're doing this right now," said Dr. Aeby "Unfortunately for Hawaii's reefs we're running out of time."
For more information on how you can be part of the Eyes of the Reef team spotting damaged coral click here.