Coral Disease Affecting Our Island Reefs

Greta Aeby
Greta Aeby

COCONUT ISLAND (KHNL) -- This Earth and Sea Project report offers a closer look at the health and well-being of our island reefs.

And scientists say there is cause for concern.

Researchers at the University of Hawaii are monitoring a consistent spread of disease throughout Hawaii's reefs.

They are considered the foundation of marine life.

And by extension, they're critical to supporting life above sea-level.

This makes the current scientific view of the health our island coral reefs, all the more significant.

''Our reefs are under threat," said Greta Aeby with the UH Institute of Marine Biology.

Aeby, monitors that threat, first hand.

She's a marine biologist, who began observing Hawaii's coral reefs, some six years ago, following a trip to the Florida Keys.

That's where she learned close to 90% of the most prevalant type of coral, died from disease.

''Here in Hawaii, some of the major threats are the over fishing and the land-based pollution. You've got global climate change coming on and, of course, what I'm studying is coral disease. This is already immerging as a problem out here in Hawaii," Aeby said.

Aeby says there are 17 types of coral disease, here in the islands.

But, the research is still new, so the long-term impacts are unclear.

Every island is affected.

Disease has even reached the remote and pristine Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

''When you see that, when you that reef is already starting to go downhill, it should help you to understand that our reefs are vulnerable, just as vulnerable as the Florida Keys were 20 years ago."

So what can we do to help our native coral reefs?

Aeby says, limit your use of pesticides and herbicides.

Don't overfish.

Catch only what you need.

And, if you're on the beach and see rubbish, please take the time and energy to pick it up and throw it away, before it ends up in the ocean.