Recently, many people have been asking why there is so much broken coral on our usually smooth sandy beaches here in Maui. The answer comes from a domino effect of ocean conditions that includes weather, water temperature, and waves.
Perhaps you’ve read or heard about coral bleaching in many parts of the world. Coral bleaching occurs when a small rise in water temperature stresses corals. Recent coral bleaching is caused by an increase of water temperature triggered by El Niño. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association has announced that we are in the third recorded global bleaching event since record taking began.
According to Darla White, of the DLNR Divison of Aquatic Resources “When water temperatures rise, corals expel the zooxanthaellae, a symbiotic algae that lives in their tissues that gives them their color, leaving them either white or much lighter/brighter in color such as blue or yellow. These algae provide up to 90% of their nutrition and energy from sugars produced during photosynthesis, so once they are expelled the corals have lost their primary food source and over time will weaken from starvation.”
Though it happens in steps, the bleaching effects can be seen in a relatively quick period of time and can be seen all around the Hawaiian Islands.
Without a doubt we are experience an epidemic of Coral bleaching.
White also states “Corals can recover if the environmental conditions return to normal, but the stress from bleaching takes a huge toll on other energetic processes of growth and reproduction and leaves them vulnerable to disease.”
Also, keep in mind many people consider it bad luck to take rocks, coral or anything natural originating from the Hawaiian Islands. (Remember that Brady Bunch episode?) Consider leaving the coral right where it lays!
You can also help protect the reef by using a reef safe sunscreen, that does not contain Oxybenzone. Consider swimwear that already has sun protection built in.
Water temperatures are already cooling and we are staying hopeful that there will be a high recovery rate of the coral that has not already perished.
If you have any questions about the coral or marine life, give us a call, or better yet, join our Hawaii Wildlife Fund certified naturalists aboard Kai Kanani 2.