Hawaii reefs in critical condition

By Duane Shimogawa - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - More than three-quarters of Hawaii's reef fish are in critical condition.

And our reefs are not doing much better.

One ecologist tells us reefs in Hawaii will never be the same. But, he also says it's not too late to keep them safe from more harm.

It's no secret Hawaii's reef ecosystems are in trouble, but ecologists say they're not beyond repair.

"I would say Hawaii is kind of in the middle of the road," Marine ecologist Eric Brown said. "We're seeing where we might end up if we're not careful, like in the Caribbean, but we also see targets for the future."

Ecologists gave a "State of the Coral Reef Ecosystems" presentation Wednesday. Their hope is to bring more awareness to this growing problem.

"Leave a lighter footprint and take only what you need on the reef," Fisheries ecologist Alan Friedlander said. "Try to develop strategies as individual people and as communities that are not only going to make reefs healthier tomorrow, but make it healthier for the next generation."

New Zealand visitor Roy MacDonald says this is a personal issue for him.

"I'm a recreational fisherman myself, so I'm vitally interested in what happens out there," he said. "I think all fishing nations surrounded by water, we have quota systems."

Ecologists say there are three reasons for the destruction of Hawaii's reefs. They are over-fishing, water pollution and climate change.

"If we can give corals enough time to climitize or even adapt like what they might see in some of the reefs in the South Pacific, there's a chance that reefs will come back," Brown said.

A sight MacDonald and others welcome with open arms.

"I think it's got to be a global effort and it's very difficult to change the way of the western world," he said.

A change in the way you do things may change the reefs you enjoy.

Officials say we can control both water pollution and over-fishing locally, but climate change may take wider effort.