‘Reef Madness’

LIHUE — The outbreak of black band coral disease on Kauai’s North Shore and a controversial biologist documenting it will be subjects of a documentary style reality TV series.

Producer Harry Rabin owns property on Kauai and has been diving the reefs here for more than 35 years. He says there is no better place to raise awareness about the health of the world’s oceans than here on the Garden Isle, where scientists are working to understand and address a deadly cyanobacterial disease.

“I’ve seen the change,” Rabin said of Kauai’s reefs.

“I’m not trying to do anything grandiose here … It just seemed to me there is an important story to be told.”

The show, called “Reef Madness,” will focus in part on Hanalei biologist and reef advocate Terry Lilley and his debated hypotheses about what may be causing the disease.

“The audience will become fully immersed into the eccentric life of biologist, reef talker, fish whisperer and ocean savior Terry Lilley,” states a synopsis of the show.

Along for the ride and by Lilley’s side will be three “intelligent and beautiful” co-stars: marine biologist, pro surfer and free diver Laura Birse; conservationist, “Great White Rider” and shark whisperer Ocean Ramsey; and renowned oceanographer and kite surfer Erika Montague. 

“Add a dash of political conflict and chaos with the military, local mayor, congressional reps and even the governor of Hawaii who can’t get out of Terry’s vortex,” the synopsis states.

The show is being produced by Rabin’s California-based On the Wave Productions. He, Associate Producer and Editor Kelly Smith and others will be on island shooting from now through Oct. 22.

Rabin said the show will be similar to MythBusters, with all the facts being presented and a team of world renowned scientists analyzing and looking for answers. 

“It’s almost like a mystery and we want to solve it,” he said. 

In May, a year and a half after a U.S. Geological Survey report described Kauai’s coral disease outbreak as an “epidemic,” the state Department of Land and Natural Resources announced it would lead an investigation to identify research and treatment options. So far, the disease — first spotted in 2004 — is targeting three species of Montipora, or rice, corals.

Lilley admits that the work he has been doing is controversial. One of his recent hypotheses is that the disease is caused by the Navy’s use of sonar and electronic microwaves along the North Shore. 

However, he said his hope is that the show brings forward good science so that causes can be pinpointed and cures can be found. 

“My hope is that the people I have conflicted with come forward and be part of the project,” he said. “I want everybody to get involved here. Then we have more knowledge and we can fix the problem faster.” 

Rabin said an amazing group of world renowned scientists have already signed on to the project, including from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Reef Madness team member Dr. Sylvia Earle — world-renowned oceanographer, former chief scientist of NOAA and National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence — will join the lineup in guest appearances and as a scientific adviser. 

As the show progresses, Rabin hopes to bring in local politicians, scientists, even celebrities, including Pierce Brosnan and Ben Stiller, involved in the fight to protect the ocean. 

In each episode of the show, a problem will be presented with remedy and solution and some implementation of the cure or cures not far behind, according to the synopsis. The end result is to entertain, but also educate.

Rabin said his main goal is to bring everyone to the table for a better future for not only Kauai’s reefs, but reefs around the world. As he put it — “We’re all riding this spaceship Earth together.”

“(To) really make it a critical issue that needs to be looked at now,” he said of Kauai’s coral disease. “It’s really dragged on way too long.”

Lilley said he is excited about the show and that, like him, everyone involved is passionate about one thing — protecting and saving the coral reefs here. 

Rabin has worked in the capacity as writer, director, cinematographer and producer on dozens of documentaries, according to a biography. His latest projects included working with Mike deGruy for National Geographic and James Cameron’s “Deepsea Challenge 3D,” as well as consulting and providing footage for Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue feature documentary which opened the 2014 Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Smith served as editor of the Dr. Phil Show and The Doctors, which earned her two Daytime Emmy Nominations. She is also a producer for wildlife documentaries, most notably original programming for Shark Week 2013 and 2014.

Producers have not determined where the program will air. They plan to pitch the series to a number of networks.

For more information about the producers, visit www.onthewaveproductions.com.

Chris D’Angelo, environment writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or cdangelo@thegardenisland.com.


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