FORD ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, returned to Pearl Harbor Tuesday following the conclusion of a 25-day research mission to the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Their findings were both exhilarating and troubling.
The good news was that several potential new species of fish and other marine life was discovered.
"We've come back with a number of marine life specimens which are probably new species. Probably un-described species of algae, fishes, sponges" said Dr. Randall Kosaki, the Chief Scientist for the cruise.
Doctor Kosaki described the lengthy process of determining if any of the specimens have been previously discovered and identified or not.
"Experts will go through museums, photographs, even DNA samples of all known species, compare our new specimens to everything that is known and then determine that yeah this is something that science has never seen before".
Unfortunately, researchers also discovered vast coral bleaching off Lisianski Island.
"It's looking pretty dire" described Dr. Courtney Couch. "Right now we're looking at 10 consecutive weeks of thermal stress" she continued. Dr. Couch explained that mortality among coral begins to occur after eight weeks of thermal stress – or above normal temperatures that the reef can't handle.
The ramifications of coral death can be serious, Dr. Couch explained.
"They provide a tremendous amount of revenue for the US for the globe, for communities that live near the coast. They also provide a lot of food".
Dr. Couch was pleased that the worst bleaching was off Lisianski Island, and was not widespread. However, she and other researchers won't be back until next summer, due to the length of time it takes to plan, organize and fund a trip.