A mysterious coral die-off on Kauai’s north shore is prompting a team of scientists to take a closer look at what may be killing large areas of coral reef.
Marine biologist Terry Lilley has been monitoring and documenting Kauai's marine environment for the last decade or more.
This summer he was struck at how fast he was seeing something kill off what he estimates are millions of coral colonies.
"Something is damaging the reefs in the whole part of the island so it has to be something relatively big," said Lilley.
Lilley contacted scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey who've determined the diseased coral is different from what killed coral heads in Kaneohe Bay last year.
The Kauai outbreak is believed to be due to a type of cyano bacteria and fungus which has compromised the health of the reef, according to researcher Thierry Work.
Work said he took samples from the reef earlier this month and will be back to collect more coral and fish to conduct toxicology tests.
Lilley has sounded the alarm which he hopes will trigger action to get the disease in check, and prevent its spread.
"We have a billion dollar industry tourist industry in Hawaii with snorkels who want to see the reefs. If we let them die on the north shore of Kauai, that’s going to be a huge impact financially on the resources, and the money coming in,” said Lilley.
The Kauai resident is also concerned about what he saw on a recent dive where he documented evidence of diseased turtles and fish.
"The other day at Annini, we counted eight turtles,seven of the eight had eye infections, two had noticable tumors and oneof the eight, had its eyes missing completely," Lilley said.