Kauai Coral Dying at Alarming Rate – Why Doesn’t the Government Action?

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BY TERRY LILLEY – I must report what my video camera is documenting on the island of Kauai. A few days ago I took video of 60 yards of the inner reef at Waipa and was disgusted with what I saw. One hundred percent of the corals had died and were covered in mud. This is a crime and just not acceptable for Kauai.

I have taken hundreds of hours of video of these very corals and other corals in Hanalei Bay since 2006. The corals in the shallow lagoon at Waipa have been steadily dying over the past two years. It was once a beautiful coral garden with tons of marine life from turtles to butterfly fish. Now there are no new corals growing back in shallow water.


Thick gooie mud from the Hanalei River has been flowing into the bay and drifting into the Waipa side for over a year on a daily basis. This heavy, toxic, thick mud is not normal flood water mud that comes out of all the rivers in bad rains. I have also taken hundreds of hours of video at other bays along the north shore and not one of them has the problem with a dead reef like Hanalei and the other bays with rivers have many new young corals growing.

Since 2009 thousands of shallow water corals have been dying and I have video of this progression. My pics and videos have stimulated several TV news shows and articles in the paper. You can see these up on my web at www.underwater2web.com.

Five months ago I took video of these very corals for a senior project at Kapaa High School. We counted about 10% live corals and 90% recently killed corals. I took video of these some corals about a month ago which lead to many news stories.

Now all of the corals are either dead or almost dead and covered in thick mud. This is just a crime.

Hanalei Pier is now surrounded by a layer of this thick mud and is just disgusting. People are getting sick and I almost died last week what scuba diving in the stuff to take video. I passed out under water and spent a long time in the hospital. We believe it was a toxic reaction to me ingesting a little bit of this toxic soup while diving by the pier.

Where the hell is the government who should be monitoring this situation? I have given monthly emails with pictures to the EPA, DLNR, DOH, River Hui and others and offered my videos for free. Not one person wanted to see the videos and I have not seen one scientist in the water studying this situation and I am in the water almost everyday, surfing, diving or spearfishing for invasive species.

This is really not good as the bay, with thick brown mud in it and a dying shallow water reef will effect tourism and human health.

Please spread this email around and please demand that our publicly funded agencies start monitoring and fixing this problem. We just can’t afford to loose this much coral in a 6 month period of time.

Other people have paid millions of dollars in fines for killing way less coral.

The bay is one living system and it has cancer. Cancer can be cured but if left unchecked it will kill the bay.





  1. This author has limited scientific training and background. Although he is an excellent photographer, his alarmist reports of the conditions in Hanalei do not reflect the facts. Please refrain from running stories from folks who cannot produce a valid CV or verification of credentials. The situation in Hanalei is the result of a cyclical phenomenon related to weather and not caused by any single source of pollution. Appropriate government and scientific experts have been and are monitoring the conditions and will provide reports as needed.
    He did not even write a complete title for this story !

  2. 1. I'm very concered. Any response from the Govt.? I would love to see links posted here to any follow-up articles?

    2. To the Hawaii Reporter: can you get an editor to scan for errors in grammar — such as found in the title (and paragraphs 3,7, and 8, each of which has a run-on sentence)? Manini, sure, but let's up the standard. 🙂

  3. Maybe they can make a fertilizer , with an active atibiotic of sorts. or farm a coral that is immune to it. oh!! I wonder if there is another bacteria or something that would like to
    eat it.

  4. I know its a touchy thing that can backfire in your face. But I think there must be something that can be tested out . I think there is something out there that eats it ,out of all the above ideas that im sure you have already been working on . Shit!!! this sucks. ill be back soon and will do any grunt labor work that may be involved.

    • I have visited Kauai 10x in the last 14 years and just came back last week and was shocked at how bad the coral looked in Anini and snorkeled by Regis Hotel too and found almost no tropical fish to view. Just 3 years ago, in 2010 I took pics of some of the lovely fish and this year there was nothing to take pics of except turtles but the water was not clear enough to bother. I am sad to see on the internet that not many people are talking about this! Thanks Terry for your work. I'll try and spread the word. We need more organic and solar folks, that means the golf courses and your fancy green lawns!

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