Global warming and El Nino will be hitting the oceans harder, so Hawaii is making plans to fight against coral bleaching by coming up with a management plan to save reef life. The ever increasing temperatures of our waters are harming the coral population. It’s an issue that has become front and center for multiple marine biologists.
They are a significant part of the underwater ecosystem, but are now seeing a downfall. Bleaching essentially means that the corals are expelling symbiotic algae due to the high temperatures of the water. When the algae is lost, so are the nutrients it can provide. After consecutive years, the coral loses its color and eventually dies.
El Nino is in full effect
The world’s waters have lost 30% of their corals due to global warming, acidification, and El Nino. This year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that both 2015 and 2016 will see major coral bleaching. Some of the parts that will be most severely hit will be around Hawaii.
Reefs around Big Island and Maui have been hit the hardest, and it has prompted the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to take action. They’re asking for aid from the scientific community to find ways to combat the problem. According to Dr. William Walsh, marine biologist from the DLNR, there are currently a good amount of live corals. Their aim is to make sure that doesn’t change.
To protect or not to protect
Environmental groups have urged the state to place a temporary suspension on the collecting of aquarium fish. That is a practice more common in the west side of the Big Island, where the coral bleaching is expected to be the harshest. Dr. Bruce Anderson, from the State Office of Environment Quality Control, has backed those demands. He stated that the presence of certain parrot fishes (such as uhu) are a significant part of the reef’s health.
They, along with other herbivores, munch on the potentially destructive algae and, thus, participate beneficially to the ecosystem. By collecting them as pets, fishermen are depriving the underwater environment of much needed roles.
However, Suzanne Case, chair of the DLNR, stated that aquarium fish collecting will not serve the matter of coral bleaching. In fact, the parrot fishes in question are hardly ever fished, and only 20% of those taken by collectors are herbivores that benefit the underwater ecosystem. Banning aquarium fish collecting will virtually have zero effects on the matter at hand.
The solution has been called as “emotional”, that’s focusing more on the perception of cruelty in taking fish as pets, rather than the more important issue of the coral bleaching.
The solution needs to go further, according to Case. Addressing problems like land pollution, in addition to perhaps protecting a few ‘grazers’ that munch on the intrusive algae could be the answer. Officials hope to start implementing a good management plan by 2016.
Image source: sciencedaily.com