Counting corals

Terry Lilley / Underwater2web

Live and healthy corals grow alongside a coral skeleton in Waipa on Kauai’s North Shore.

Terry Lilley / Underwater2web

Mushroom coral is making a comeback at Hideaways Beach on Kauai’s North Shore.

Terry Lilley / Underwater2web

Baby cauliflower coral grows on Kauai’s North Shore Tuesday.

HANALEI — Recent reports from Kauai’s North Shore are pointing to new coral growth.

Wednesday, Underwater2web videographer Terry Lilley released a video survey report from the reef at Waipa, which is located on the west side of Hanalei Bay.

“Found lots of new, young corals,” Lilley said. “Every single one of these live fast growing corals has a value for the health and stability of Hanalei Bay. Plus they are just very beautiful to look at and are now the new home to a bunch of baby butterflyfish!”

In 2004, scientists found black band disease on corals in Waipa and then in 2012, the outbreak spread. The area was part of the die-off in 2014 and 2015, but the coral started growing back in late 2015 according to surveys. By 2017, the fast-growing corals were starting to make a real presence.

Then, April 2018 came around and those corals were covered in a layer of mud and debris. Winter swells cleaned off the reef, though, Lilley says.

“Most of the mud is off this part of the reef and now once again new corals are growing back, including a few dozen blue rice corals,” he said.

Studies throughout those years were done on Kauai’s North Shore corals by scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, University of Hawaii, and the US Geological Survey, as well as the volunteer network Eyes of the Reef. Those studies continued throughout Hawaii, where massive bleaching events were decimating coral.

The state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources also has data on the “statically significant” decline in coral since 2012, and the “extreme decline” in 2016 due to the statewide bleaching event.

And in 2018, ReefGuardians and Eyes of the Reef volunteers discovered new corals at Anini Bay. That was the first of the regrowth reports that have slowly begun to surface.

Over at Hideaways in the Princeville area, Lilley says he’s seeing regrowth as well.

“The entire reef appeared dead at this spot in 2014,” he said. “(Now) the entire reef is covered with new baby pork chop corals that are about three to six inches tall. Was great to see.”

Currently, there aren’t any surveys or studies other than Lilley’s happening on Kauai and the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources doesn’t have an aquatic biologist on the island to weigh in on the reef resurgence.

Lilley points out a need for a full survey of coral reefs on the North Shore, especially in places that have received a year of rest time from the usual traffic due to the closure of Kuhio Highway.


Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or

  1. nopey May 10, 2019 3:05 pm Reply

    Once again more Terry Linney coral propaganda. There are more dead corals than live in every one of these pictures.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.