Conservationists have a new tool to help save coral in Kaneohe Bay. For decades the living reef has been threatened by invasive marine algae, which experts say is spreading at an alarming rate.
Suzanne Case with The Nature Conservancy says,"These invasive algae are some of the worst in Hawaii. They cover our reef ecosystems, and smother the corals, and kill the corals."
The Super Sucker II is a barge with a green underwater vacuum that is designed to suck the invasive algae right off the reef. The new machine supplements the work already under way with the first Super Sucker that was built seven years ago.
The new barge holds about double the amount of algae from the first one, collecting about 10,000 pounds of algae per day
The eradication effort is two-fold, to save the coral in Kaneohe Bay, and to prevent the algae from spreading to other areas.
Kelton Eldridge with The Nature Conservancy says, "In the next three years, beginning in the northern end of the bay, we hope to remove the worst of the invasive algae from the bay."
Jono Blodgett with the Department of Land and Natural Resources says, "We have divers go down, they are very selective to hand remove the invasive algae, so that kind of disperses any fish that might be inside."
The algae gets packaged and the packages are given to local farmers for fertilizer.
The plan is to remove the bulk of the algae with the Super Suckers and then to add sea urchins harvested locally to the area. The sea urchins eat the algae, and would help prevent it from re-growing. Conservationists says this is a long-term effort, but they hope it will get them ahead of the game.
The Nature Conservancy says it needs $2.5 million to keep the program running for the next three years. They rely on donations, and they have not reached their goal.