DLNR: Coral bleaching not as severe as previous years, but still widespread

Creditp: NOAA (coral bleaching)
Creditp: NOAA (coral bleaching)
Published: Nov. 5, 2019 at 6:37 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) -Coral bleaching continues to devastate some reefs across the state.

The DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources has been tracking conditions over the last few years. They conducted rapid assessments of coral health across the state, and although bleaching wasn’t as severe in some areas as reported in previous years, there was still a substantial amount of bleaching found throughout the islands.

An increase in ocean temperatures mixed with other factors leads to coral bleaching. A strong indicator that coral is bleached is the white color affected reefs may have, which can lead to the die-off of the impacted reefs.

“Corals are an essential part of life in Hawaii. They support an abundance of life on our reefs, protect homes and businesses from storms and provide amazing beauty for people to enjoy,” DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said.

Gerry Davis with NOAA Marine Fisheries explained that coral conditions are slowly improving as sea surface temperatures begin to drop. But that doesn’t mean bleaching isn’t already having a negative impact in the water.

Lanikai, being one of Oahu’s most popular beaches, was hit the hardest.

Approximately 55 percent of live coral was found to have been bleached, surpassing previous levels. Along the Kona coast, about 40 percent of live coral surveyed was bleached.

Meanwhile, Molokini’s crater reefs saw more than 50 percent bleaching.

Several reefs in Kaneohe Bay were also surveyed. The Division of Aquatic Resources said bleaching there was spotty, but still present.

Conditions were similar for Kauai and Molokai’s shorelines.

Of the types of coral surveyed, cauliflower and rice corals experienced the worst of the bleaching.

Amid research, the DLNR is encouraging the public to take proactive steps to protect Hawaii’s coral reefs.

They’ve organized the coral pledge, which highlights six steps people can take, including avoiding stepping on corals, containing harmful chemicals and using reef-safe sunscreens.

“We hope that greater awareness of the constant stresses we all put on our coral reefs and the steps we can take to reduce those impacts, helped the corals persist during this event. This is why we encourage everyone, especially commercial tour operators who take people into the ocean, to sign The Coral Pledge," Case said.

To view or take the coral pledge, click here.

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