By Leland Kim
MA'ALAEA, Maui (KHNL) - An international audience gathers in Maui to witness a natural event. Call it underwater mating.
It's a unique phenomenon that happens only once a year in July, attracting a lot of attention.
Folks from all over the world line up for a lesson in marine biology, but many have no idea what to expect.
"We don't know anything about it," said Judith Feldman, a visitor from California. "We asked a lot of our friends about it, and we had absolutely no answer from anyone."
The main attraction? The annual ritual of coral spawning.
"It's supposed to be a great 'Sex in the Sea' week, I believe it's called," said Jessica Feldman, who is visiting Maui with her mother. "So, we're very interested."
While reproduction occurs spontaneously in nature, not so for rice corals. They spawn systematically. So precise, you can even plan for it.
Coral spawning happens every year just one or two days after the new moon in July. Scientists don't know exactly why this is, but they have some ideas.
"Strength of the tide, so after a new moon, so the tides will be higher or stronger than normal," said John Gorman, head curator at the Maui Ocean Center.
So when the colony is ready, it wraps up eggs and sperm into a bundle and releases them up to the surface.
Claire Stucklen and her family have been planning for this event for weeks, saying it points to a bigger lesson in marine biology.
"The ocean is just the life force," said Stucklen, a Kihei, Maui, resident who is visiting with her son Prasa, and her mom. "It's the mother of it all. It's just so important to keep our oceans healthy."
It's a lesson she learned from her mom, Koko Kroesen.
"To respect the ocean, and they are for us," said the 83-year-old Kihei, Maui, resident. "And if you have knowledge, you can learn so many things."
Passing on a love for the ocean to future generations.