Coral concerns for our waters

Mark Heckman
Mark Heckman

By Paul Drewes - bio | email

WAIKIKI (KHNL) -- They help give Hawaii their world class surf breaks and provide ecosystems for water life.

But coral reefs across the country are in bad shape, according to a new study.

The study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says half of all coral reefs in U.S. and its territories are in poor or just fair condition. That includes the ones here around the main Hawaiian Islands.

Now scientists hope this study is a wake up call to do something to help.

Take a trip under our waters, and the colorful fish and ocean life capture your eye. While many important corals are often overlooked.

But they shouldn't be.

"They give us our spectacular shores they give us our beaches. Everything we like about Hawaii gets down to the ocean. And that ocean relates to our coral reefs and we want to keep them healthy," says Mark Heckman with the Waikiki Aquarium.

Some of these slow forming corals only grow a half an inch a year.

They are important as a habitat for reef fish, but corals are in danger from natural disasters as well as man made ones. "The local threats are fishing related, over development related, pollution related, overuse and marine debris which is a significant threat along the Hawaiian archipelago," says Rusty Brainard, with the NOAA Marine Fisheries Service.

Hawaii is the most remote group of islands in the world, so one of the biggest threats here to our reefs is invasive species of fish and sea weeds.

Global warming is also becoming a hot topic for our oceans, threatening these easily damaged organisms.

One way to protect this resource is through education. At the Waikiki Aquarium kids and adults are learning about the care of corals. While researchers are also busy, spawning more of these critical critters so our future will be filled with these colorful polyps. "We can make changes in our lives even if there is degradation of corals we can slow it down, and locally bring back reefs if we get in there and care, and do our part," said Heckman.

NOAA has been studying reef ecosystems over the past ten years, and has seen a decline in the condition of our corals. In the past three years alone, a pair of corals, have been added to the threatened list of species because they are in such danger.