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Global Survey Lands to Development of Hawaii Coral Plan

Two successive summers of serious coral bleaching in waters around the main Hawaiian Islands and in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands has led to the development of the first-ever Hawai‘i Coral Bleaching Recovery Plan.

According to DLNR Division of Aquatics (DAR) administrator Dr. Bruce Anderson, “Recent coral bleaching events around the Hawaiian Islands have been a major cause for concern, as healthy corals are key to our nearshore ecosystems and are the very foundations for the overall and long-term health of the ocean.  After serious and unprecedented bleaching events in 2015 and 2016, we sought advice from leading experts around the world on what types of management interventions might be most successful in minimizing long-term reef degradation resulting from bleaching.”

A steering committee, made up of representatives from DLNR/DAR, the University of Hawai‘i, The Nature Conservancy, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), surveyed opinions and best practices from experts around the and analyzed peer-reviewed literature related to coral bleaching and recovery.  The committee then held a workshop with local coral researchers and included their recommendations in the plan.

The report notes that “establishing a network of permanent no-take Marine Protected Areas and establishing a network of Herbivore Fishery Management Areas were the top-ranked actions arising from the expert judgment assessments and the literature analysis.”

“We set out to identify specific management actions we can take to mitigate the effects of coral bleaching and we succeeded in doing that,” said Anderson.  “Our goals now may include establishing protected areas around reefs that have naturally higher resiliency to bleaching, controlling algal overgrowth in selected locations by protecting herbivores, and replacing corals killed by bleaching events with new coral from another location. Anderson noted that “This is going to be a huge challenge, but we need to give it our best shot.  We’re extremely grateful to the experts here in Hawai‘i and around the world who helped make this recovery plan a reality.”

The Coral Bleaching Recovery Plan is available for download from the home page of DAR’s web site http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dar under the “Notices” section.