HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A diverse group of coral reef scientists, policymakers and stakeholders are gathering in Hawaii this week to discuss the latest coral science and what can be done to stop widespread death of the world's reefs.
"I think people understand and appreciate coral reefs in a general sense, but most people don't get in the water, so they can't see the things we see everyday," said Robert Richmond, director of UH Manoa's Kewalo Marine Laboratory.
Richmond joins more than 2,500 attendees from 97 nations at the 13th International Coral Reef Symposium, all fighting to save the 'Rainforests of the Ocean.' The conference is held every four years. This is the first time it's being hosted in Hawaii.
"We've got to do better at retaining water on land and do better action on land because that's really where coral protection starts," said Richmond.
The theme of the week-long symposium is Bridging Science to Policy. It will cover topics including coral reefs and climate change, cutting edge technology in coral science, community-based management, coastal pollution and the role of Marine Protected Areas.
"They're (coral reefs) not only centers for the economies, but for culture, the environment and the future," Richmond said.
The main goal of the symposium however, is to put policies in place in order to create a more unified coral reef conservation plan.
That's where key international leaders like Republic of Palau's President Tommy Remengesau Jr. come into play.
"If we don't do nothing, then coastal communities as we know in the Pacific will be doomed forever," Remengesau said.
Remengesau passed legislation in 2015, protecting 80% of Palau's territorial waters from all fishing activities -- which, scientists say, plays a major role into coral reef decline.
He and other ocean leaders hope the move serves as a tipping point, leading to more protected waters.
"We need to translate that kind of thinking and action to other parts of the world particularly to our pacific neighbors," said Robert Dunbar, Professor of Earth Science at Stanford University.
"This is a concept we've proved to be working," Remengesau said. "The science is behind us."
You can find more information about the symposium here.