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Bleaching event threatens coral

LIHUE — While entities are calling for help monitoring Hawaii’s corals in the face of an anticipated heat wave and major bleaching event, some Kauai divers and ocean users say they’re already seeing diseased coral.

Reports coming from Anini say the entire lagoon isn’t affected, but that isolated parts of the lagoon are experiencing bleaching and disease.

Kauai’s corals have reportedly been struggling in some areas due to sediment and debris build up from 2018 floods as well as nutrient discharge from cesspools and the use of sunscreens that aren’t reef-safe.

At Anini, the most recent report from underwater videographer Terry Lilley says some of the coral is covered in sediment, experiencing a large algae bloom and some are bleaching.

“There is a dramatic difference between this part of the lagoon as the entire sea floor and corals are covered in a massive algae bloom and also a sediment layer that is not in the rest of the lagoon,” Lilley said in a report sent to The Garden Island newspaper. “The entire lagoon is not suffering from an outbreak of coral bleaching or coral disease yet, but an isolated part of the lagoon is.”

That report was sent to TGI newspaper Aug. 24. On Aug. 23, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Watch Program put out another warning, saying their data is predicting a major bleaching event within the next two months.

It could happen fairly soon, according to researchers and officials, and it could be the worst bleaching in history.

“We’re already observing bleaching of corals in West Hawaii, along with some paling of other species at some of our long-term monitoring sites,” said Nikki Sanderlin, acting aquatic biologist for the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources West Hawaii district office.

DLNR doesn’t have DAR staff on Kauai, but does have an aquatic biologist on contract for the island.

“We know this bleaching event is coming and it’s probably going to be worse than the ones we experienced four and five years ago. West Hawaii experienced a 50% mortality rate and Maui experience 20-30% mortality rates on fixed DAR monitoring sites. We’re asking for everyone’s help in trying to be proactive and to minimize any additional stress we put on our corals,” said the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources administrator Brian Nelson.

As they anticipate the next “blob” to enter Pacific waters — somewhat akin to the 2015 “blob” that triggered bleaching around Hawaii — officials and researchers say there are several things you can do to help monitor and combat coral bleaching.

NOAA suggests the public can do the following things to help monitor the reefs and help keep them as healthy as possible:

w Avoid touching corals or coral reefs while diving, snorkeling or swimming

w Do not stand or rest on corals

w Use reef-safe sunscreens

w Boaters should use mooring buoys or anchor only in sand areas

w Keep anchor chains off the reef

w Fishermen should reduce or stop their take of herbivores, such as parrotfish (uhu), surgeonfish &sea urchins. Herbivores clear reefs of algae, which over-grow and kill corals during bleaching events.

w Take extra precaution to prevent other potential contaminants from getting to the ocean:

w Dirt from poorly managed commercial and private earth work

w Chemical pollution from fertilizers, soaps, detergents used in outdoor watering, car washing, etc.

w Other contaminants like oil from poor containment practices

Report bleaching events to:
Source: The Garden Island

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