‘ANINI — The waters in ‘Anini Bay are starting to clear after heavy rains in April clouded much of the bay with light sediment.
New coral is looking healthy, more fish seem to be darting through the bay, and other animals, like Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles, are being seen, according to several residents who have been out exercising on the beach or in the water.
Robin Mazor, of Reef Guardians Hawai‘i, was out at ‘Anini recently, and said the reef is looking good now that the debris from those heavy rains has mostly cleared.
“We see lots of new coral growth, minimal disease, and more juvenile and large predator fish, including non-aggressive reef sharks,” Mazor said. “Reef sharks are an indication of a broader, more healthy ecosystem, and it’s good to know the reefs can support this food chain.”
Reef Guardians Hawai‘i usually runs a Coral Reef Kids camp during spring break, teaching keiki about the ocean by taking them snorkeling. That’s been put on hold due to COVID-19 countermeasures, but Mazor is still checking in on the reef often, and reports “corals are steadily growing on the old skeletons.”
Recently, she was joined on her swim in the bay by a spotted eagle ray.
“Spent about 40 minutes with this beautiful being (spotted eagle ray) until we had to say goodbye and come to shore. It seemed to be enjoying our company,” Mazor said.
Heather Ylitalo-Ward, aquatic biologist with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources, said her team hasn’t been in the field due to COVID-19, but they have been out recreationally, and report “seeing seals and turtles in places that haven’t before that are generally full of people.”
“The water appears clear, too. A DAR monitoring tech has been to Anini and seen some recovery from the black-band disease out there,” Ylitalo-Ward said in an email.
With fewer people on the beaches and in the water, reports from around the state echo the same evidence that is being seen on Kaua‘i — more animals in the water and corals growing.
In Kahalu‘u Bay on Hawai‘i Island, DAR reports the COVID-19 crisis has “provided the opportunity for the bay to rest.” To take advantage of those conditions, the department is requesting everyone voluntarily refrain from swimming and snorkeling in the bay, especially from May 10 to 16, when cauliflower coral is spawning.
Meanwhile, Mazor and the team at Reef Guardians Hawai‘i are looking forward to being able to show the keiki in their reef camps the new growth when they’re able to welcome them back to their outdoor classroom.
Until then, they’re enjoying the water and following COVID-19 guidelines, and marveling at the baby corals growing in ‘Anini Bay and elsewhere on Kaua‘i.
“Hope to see them forge ahead before the next summer algae takeover,” Mazor said.
Jessica Else, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or email@example.com.