‘Hawaii’s coral reefs are dying’

  • Contributed by Hawaii Coral Bleaching Tracker

    This map highlights areas of known coral bleaching on Kauai through Thursday.

  • Terry Lilley / Special to The Garden Island

    A healthy antler coral is seen in a Wainiha lagoon last week.

  • Terry Lilley / Special to The Garden Island

    A bleached cauliflower coral is seen in a Wainiha lagoon last week.

LIHUE — The Trump administration caught another lawsuit as a strong marine heat wave is starting to impact Hawaii’s coral reefs, including reports of coral bleaching on Kauai.

The nonprofit conservation group Center for Biological Diversity sued the Trump administration Thursday for failing to protect cauliflower coral around the Hawaiian Islands.

That specific type of coral was particularly affected by warming ocean waters, according to environmentalists and entities including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Cauliflower coral was considered for protection in 2018 under the Endangered Species Act. However, the National Marine Fisheries Service hasn’t made a decision.

The Center for Biological Diversity issued a notice of intent to sue in May, asking NMFS to follow up on their review of the species and issue a listing decision.

“Cauliflower coral is like the canary in the coal mine of our warming oceans. Marine life around Hawaii will suffer without bold actions to protect coral reefs,” said Maxx Phillips, the center’s Hawaii director.

“Hawaii’s coral reefs are dying, and they need our help. Letting colorful corals bleach white and die indicates an ocean becoming less bountiful and biodiverse,” Phillips said.

Thursday’s lawsuit was filed in federal district court in Hawaii.

In a Thursday news release, the center said protecting Hawaii’s corals is going to require more than a listing under the ESA, but it could help.

They cite solutions like cutting fossil-fuel emissions and land-based pollution as well.

“An Endangered Species Act listing could help minimize and mitigate threats,” the center said in the release.

Meanwhile, a strong marine heat wave has reached Hawaii, and there are reports of bleaching events across the state.

Eyes of the Reef is a nonprofit organization that helps gather those reports. It’s a bridge between citizens out in the water collecting information and state entities, like the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources.

Together they’re hosting a new website where citizen scientists can report bleaching, and where anyone can check in to see where bleaching has been reported.

On Kauai, bleaching was reported on both the north and south shores. Severe coral bleaching was reported on Oct. 8 near Kalanipuao Rock and Makaokahi Point, just west of Spouting Horn.

Severe bleaching was also reported near Anini on the North Shore in September.

Other bleaching reports are coming in from underwater videographer and The Garden Island columnist Terry Lilley, who has been shooting footage around Kauai and monitoring coral conditions.

He says the corals at or near Tunnels, Limahuli Stream and Wainiha all had a less-than-5% bleach rate, according to his calculations, and pointed to a high flush rate in those locations leading to cleaner conditions for the corals.

“The only interesting observation is just about all of the blue rice corals at every site are bleaching,” Lilley said in an Oct. 5 report.

“There are only a few blue rice colonies at each site because most of them got wiped out in the 2014 and 2015 black band disease event.

“It seems like the blue rice corals are the first to bleach or die on every shallow reef along the North Shore of Kauai and Oahu,” Lilley said.


Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or jelse@thegardenisland.com.

  1. WestsideResident October 11, 2019 6:51 am Reply

    Blame Trump?

    Wow. Speechless.

  2. jjjames October 11, 2019 8:35 am Reply

    What has the State and County agencies done to protect our oceans and our coral reefs?
    Is there any effort what-so-ever to enforce NPDES regulations? I certainly don’t see it.
    Grass clippings blown out into the street by home owners, and left to be washed down into the nearest storm drain with the next rain, on its way to the ocean. Even the State and County crews are guilty of that.
    Perhaps we could protect our coral reefs and other ocean life by first putting a stop to that. Then educating the public on NPDES regulations.
    It’s time that State and County agencies start taking responsibility for their own well being. Don’t blame President Trump for you own lack of accountability.
    But first, we need State and County leaders that don’t “blame daddy every time they stub their toe”.

  3. Say What October 11, 2019 9:46 am Reply

    What does this have to do with Trump. Soo rediculous.

    1. Jim October 12, 2019 3:58 am Reply

      Your education level is evident by the way you attempted to spell, “ridiculous”. You are the problem, along with the rest of uneducated America.

    2. Jim October 12, 2019 4:02 am Reply

      That’s how you spell, “ridiculous”? Uneducated America is the problem.

  4. tunataxi October 11, 2019 10:46 am Reply

    Itʻs all over the island worst Iʻve seen in 30 years

  5. manongindashadow0711 October 11, 2019 3:43 pm Reply

    Place more showers on our beach park and recommend everyone to shower. Before entering the water to swim.

  6. manongindashadow0711 October 11, 2019 3:46 pm Reply

    Recommend that everyone shower before swimming in the ocean.

    1. Just my opinion October 11, 2019 4:28 pm Reply

      I’d HIGHLY recommend showering as soon as you come out of that ocean. And use a lot of soap!!!

  7. manongindashadow0711 October 11, 2019 4:07 pm Reply

    Have everyone shower before entering to swim in the ocean.

  8. RG DeSoto October 11, 2019 4:23 pm Reply

    Much ado about something we have NO control over–ocean (or atmospheric for that matter) temperature:

    “In a study published in the journal Nature Geoscience, a Yale-led research team explored differences in ocean temperatures over the last 5 million years. The team created a historical record for sea temperature gradients and compared it with state-of-the-art climate model simulations.
    Sea temperature gradients (contrasts) in the tropics and subtropics are the engines of Earth’s climate. They control global atmospheric circulations, as well as the transport of water vapor for the planet.
    As part of the study, the researchers investigated climate evolution since the early Pliocene epoch, 4 to 5 million years ago. They looked at the development of gradients along the equator and mid-latitude regions to the north and south.
    The early Pliocene was the last time atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations were as high as today’s levels, yet ocean temperatures during the Pliocene—from the subtropics to the Artic—were much warmer than today. The tropical Pacific, for example, had conditions resembling a modern El Niño that persisted for thousands of years.”
    “The puzzle is how to explain this warmth during the Pliocene,” said lead author Alexey Fedorov, a professor of geology and geophysics at Yale. “Ocean temperature contrasts are a major part of this puzzle.”
    As part of their work, the researchers developed a temperature record for the mid-latitude South Pacific, where there had been no long-term temperature record. The new data shows that water temperatures during the Pliocene were about 5 degrees Celsius warmer than today.”

    So how come any coral survived from then to the present when the ocean temperature was 5 degrees celsius warmer? That’s 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
    RG DeSoto

  9. bee October 11, 2019 5:08 pm Reply

    RoundUp and non-reef safe sunscreens should not be available in Hawaii. They do so much harm.

    1. Simon December 14, 2020 11:29 am Reply


  10. Lumahai October 13, 2019 2:01 pm Reply

    I hear the same thing every year. Then it makes a comeback. I am going to than the administration for the quiet tropical cyclone season.

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.