Once a year, with spring tides and a full moon, corals reproduce and send millions of tiny gametes into the water column; however, aquatic biologists claim that the annual cycle can be interrupted.
Shortly after dawn on Friday and Saturday, a trio of aquatic biologists from the Aquatic Resources Division of the State Department of Lands and Natural Resources carefully monitored coral colonies in Waialea Bay in the area. Hāpuna Beach State Recreation Center, to monitor coral spawning activity.
“There are many factors at play,” said Lindsey Kramer, DAR fish and habitat monitoring planner, in a DLNR press release. “The temperature and salinity of the water are important. Rain events can cause colonies to wait for the next lunar cycle. Lunar cycles are the primary drivers of these cauliflower coral spawning events. ”
She and her colleagues hope the gametes will fertilize with neighboring colonies, float to the surface, and within 24 to 48 hours produce larvae to reseed reef structures with new corals.
Cauliflower Coral (Pocillopora Meandrina) the reefs in the waters of western Hawaii were severely affected by a massive coral bleaching event in 2015. Kramer explained, “We are about 5% of the population of this species in western Hawaii. . Cauliflower corals are particularly susceptible to bleaching, so with this 95% coverage loss, these spawning events are vitally important. We must do everything we can to help these reefs recover through this natural reproductive cycle. ”
Researchers have now recorded active spawning over the past five years. To give even more benefit to coral recovery, this year, in cooperation with the State Parks Division of DLNR, the bay parking lot was closed and people were asked to avoid entering. in the water before noon every day.
Upon entering, state park outreach specialist Dena Sedar explained the reason for the closure to snorkelers. “Everyone really understood the reasons not to interrupt coral spawning. One of the most important is to keep personal care products out of the water, ”she said.
Scientists say sunscreens form a surface on water that interacts with coral larvae. Reef-safe sunscreen dispensers are expected to be installed in the SRA’s Waialea Bay section later this year.
Chris Teague, DAR Aquatic Biologist, said: “It’s good to let them do their job without the people, as we hope it will allow them to settle down later.”
Seeing spawning results is tricky. “Some are transported offshore and it may take a few months before they get back down to the reef. They could settle in Waialea, but the spawning could go elsewhere in the region or even across the state, ”Teague added.
Spawning was light on both days during the close window. Still, Kramer said, “I think minimizing disturbance during these very sensitive times for corals is definitely a good way to help protect the larvae and ensure they are healthy.”
Teague concluded, “It’s great to work with other divisions of the DLNR like State Parks, on a common cause.” The DAR has also worked closely with Hawai’i County and the Kahulu’u Bay Education Center on the parking closure at this popular snorkeling site, which began Friday and continues through June 5. KBEC director Cindi Punihaole reported that coral spawning was observed around 7:04 a.m. on Friday.
With the resurgence of tourism, coral experts are renewing their calls to the oceans to be aware of their personal impacts on marine environments. Do not touch, sit or step on the corals. Use sun protective clothing and a helmet, and use only reef-safe sunscreens.
KBEC is a program of the Kohala Center and Lindsey Kramer is under contract with the State of the Hawai’i Coral Reef Initiative.