Aquarium comes up with unique way to save coral reefs

Published: Sep. 25, 2009 at 6:19 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 25, 2009 at 7:02 PM HST
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By Duane Shimogawa - bio | email

WAIKIKI (KHNL) - As coral reefs continue to die off from environmental stresses, including global warming, the Waikiki Aquarium has come up with a unique way to help preserve this pivotal part of the ocean.

The Waikiki Aquarium currently grows more than 120 species of corals from South Pacific to Hawaii. It's a collection unrivaled in the Western Hemisphere.

This bank of live coral creates the beginnings of a global database that tracks the origins of each specimen's DNA. So, why do researchers do this?

"To have a system in case everything does disappear in the wild where that way we can re-populate the reefs and do research and find out why the reefs are declining the way they are," Waikiki Aquarium coral specialist Richard Klovuchar said.

Through the aquarium's coral farm program, researchers have also developed a delicate method of growing small fingers of coral.

"Right now, we're doing it in on a small scale and if we can expand the scale a little bit larger, it would be much more useful around here in Hawaii and hopefully expanded to other places in the world where coral reefs are starting to decline," Klovuchar said.

Aquarium officials hope that the aquarium's coral reef arc turns into like a Noah's Arc, where the coral re-grows. Pieces of coral removed from these cultivated heads are shared with other researchers and public aquariums worldwide.

"You learn to appreciate it because you realize that they do grow on their own and it's basically a pivotal part of the ocean life and unfortunately people take it for granted," Visitor Cila Lagrasta said.

The Waikiki Aquarium has successfully maintained live corals since 1978 and now houses the largest and oldest collection of corals in the U.S.