LIHU‘E, Kaua‘i – The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) this month called together a number of partners including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and University of Hawai‘i to address the ongoing Kaua‘i black band coral disease outbreak. This will be the third meeting of the Kaua‘i Management Response Team. The Response Team will review the latest data about the disease, identify research next steps, and consider available management options.
DAR Administrator Frazer McGilvray explained: “DAR is aware of the black band coral disease on Kaua‘i and is actively implementing the Rapid Response Contingency Plan (RRCP), which provides us with a framework to respond to these types of events. We are working together to coordinate research and management efforts”.
DAR has been supporting research being conducted by UH, USGS, and NOAA to determine how widespread the disease is and whether any environmental factors could be contributing to the infections. So far, research has indicated that the disease is affecting three species of rice corals (genus: Montipora), occurs predominately on the north shore, and it seems to be occurring in seasonal “hot spots” of infection.
“This information is essential to determine if there are appropriate management options that will facilitate the healing of the affected coral reef areas,” McGilvray added. Kaua‘i DAR staff including aquatic biologist Don Heacock, will support the next stage of UH field work scheduled for this summer.
The team is also launching a new online resource – https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/reefresponse – which outlines the research and management team’s findings to-date.
“This Reef Response website has a lot of new and interesting features, including basic information on coral disease, detailed updates on the Kaua‘i Management Response Team’s latest progress, and videos and reports related to the outbreak,” explained Katie Nalesere, Kaua‘i education specialist with DAR. “This will be a great resource for the public to stay up to date with findings and efforts of DAR and its partners.”
DLNR Chairperson William J. Aila, Jr. described the need for this newly established Management Response Team. “Corals form the foundation of Hawai‘i’s marine ecosystem. Statewide, Hawai‘i’s corals are relatively healthy, but with the negative effects of climate change we are likely to see events like the coral disease outbreak on Kaua‘i more frequently. This is an important step in identifying effective management options that will help facilitate the healing of affected areas.”
The public can support this effort by reporting any new coral disease outbreak observations to The Eyes of the Reef (EOR) Network, which serves as extra eyes in local coastal areas. Here’s what the public can do:
1. Look around when diving or swimming for signs of the Kaua‘i black band disease outbreaks.
2. Take photos of the observation and send them to: RRCPCoordinator@gmail.com
3. Make a report using the EOR Network “Coral Disease, Bleaching, and COTS” online report form (www.eorhawaii.org/make-a-report).
4. Please do NOT collect samples or specimens.