Kauai Coral Dying

Something fishy has been going on with the coral on Kauai.

A few months ago, researchers started to notice the once-glowing coral reefs of Hanalei Bay were dying or already dead. They dove deeper into the problem with high-tech tools and discovered a quick-spreading bacterial disease called cyanobacterial as the culprit.

The Hawaiian pufferfish in the protected paradise of Waikiki. Researchers discovered this species in Hanalei might be linked to the coral disease.

It’s the first case of this particular bacteria reported in the Hawaiian Islands, according to the Star Advertiser, but not the first outbreak. Several years ago, Maui and Kaneohe Bay experienced similar infections that made the coral sick.

And while a cause for the outbreak in Hanalei Bay still has scientists scratching their heads, they also wonder if the disease has been hurting marine life. The article points to blackened skin on parts of several pufferfish as a possible link to the bacterial infection. Usually an olive green or brown color with small polka dots, this particular pufferfish is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands and probably the most common type you’ll see when snorkeling the island waters.

It’s worrisome how quickly this disease has been spreading and that after all these months, it still continues to baffle researchers. I read that this particular bacterial infection may be caused by an excess of sediments and nutrients, which makes me wonder if there’s been more pollution in the nearby river than usual. That could explain why the bacteria is only in Hanalei Bay, but I’m no scientist, so that’s just my educated guess.

Coral reef is more than an attraction for snorkelers and pers to admire. The reef is alive and serves as part of an underwater ecosystem for marine life. That’s why it’s very important for beach-goers to be mindful of where they step or what they do while in the ocean. Please help us to malama aina, as well as malama kai (take care of the land and ocean).

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