DLNR strengthening fight against coral bleaching
The state's efforts to fight coral bleaching is getting stronger. Plans to launch a statewide reef management program are underway. There's a call to action to come up with a defense plan to combat the growing problem in Hawai'i's waters.
One look underwater and it's clear. Bleached coral is dying coral, and there's a lot of it. In 2014 reefs on Kaua'i and O'ahu were hit especially hard. This year El Nino is taking a toll on reefs on the Big Island and Maui.
"Masses of warm elevated temperatures of water coming in moving into the south this year and last year they came in from the north," said Dr. William Walsh aquatic biologist for the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
The DLNR announced today it's asking for help from lead scientists around the world. Find ways to combat the growing problem and preserve what's still healthy.
"There is a good amount of live coral, one of tasks is for us to maintain that," Dr. Walsh said.
Officials said reef fish are a part of the equation. A temporary moratorium on catching certain fish like uhu that eat harmful algae could be put into place. That's something fisherman are monitoring closely.
"Based on what we learn there we'll see what actions we have to take in terms of policy," Suzanne Case DLNR chairperson.
Some say the state needs to take quicker action to put tighter restrictions on fish collecting in order to save the reef. Coral bleaching appears to be worsening on the west side of the Big Island.
"Those are the areas where the aquarium collectors are taking those animals. Those are exact places where these animals need to stay and protect our reefs," Ingrid Gibson of the Humane Society of the United States.
A recent study also found some sunscreens could be detrimental to coral.
"It actually screws up the ability of coral larvae to transform and become baby coral," Dr. Walsh said
DLNR knows they can't ban sunscreen but hopes this program will help people understand they're an important part of maintaining the delicate balance in our water.