JULY 2017
CORAL CALAMITY

Hawaii is the only state in the US that is composed only of islands. We have no physical connection to the US mainland, or any other land, and we are farther away from any place else than any place else. Therefore it comes as no surprise that Hawaii's citizens and leaders are acutely aware of the importance of local and global marine environments. Virtually every facet of life in Hawaii is touched by the ocean. Many people in Hawaii fish for food and have access to fresh fish in local markets, often just hours from the time the fish was caught. Also, large game fish inhabit Hawaii's waters, along with all the other organisms that support the ocean's "apex predators." The ocean helps moderate our climate, assists in creating the trade winds that moderate our tropical weather and us with resources too numerous to list.
.
The backbone of these ecosystems, and one of the most widespread and valuable marine resources in Hawaii, is our coral reefs. They provide both biological and economic benefits. Coral reefs serve as a "nursery" for virtually all oceanic species, help prevent erosion by serving as a barrier to large waves, provide economic activity and jobs, and help scientists understand how ocean conditions have changed over time. Even though coral reefs only occupy about 1% of the ocean floor these living organisms are home to about 25% of all ocean species. Coral reefs have been called "the rainforests of the sea." No exaggeration here. Our coral reefs, not only in Hawaii but around the world, provide food, habitat, protection from predators and many other benefits. In many cases they are a direct analogue to terrestrial rainforests and serve to unite our oceanic and terrestrial resources together.


Hawaii has many near-shore coral reefs. In many places reefs are easily accessible in shallow water and . provide residents and visitors with recreational and educational opportunities for beginners as well as experts who practice all kinds of ocean recreations. It is interesting to note that since Hawaii is relatively young, on a geologic time scale, and that there are many more mature coral reef systems throughout the world's oceans that are much older. These mature reefs are best experienced in Australia. Here the "Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system composed and maybe the largest living thing our planet has ever seen. It is composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching over 1,400 mi over an area of approximately 344,400 square 133,000 square miles. According to NASA this natural wonder can be seen from the space station.


Given all this it is a tragic truth that our coral reefs are disappearing at an accelerating pace. Last year (2016), according to scientific reports, 29% of both Hawaii's and Australia's reefs died. The cause is a phenomenon known as "coral bleaching." This scourge is triggered by a rise in ocean temperatures. With the exception of some high-profile denizens of Washington, DC virtually everyone on this planet believes that rise is caused by global climate change.


Coral reefs all over the world's oceans are dying. In part the causes are a combination of human-caused wear and the huge amounts of the toxics chemicals, waste products, sunscreen near shore development, poison fishing, careless tourism, water pollution, sedimentation, overfishing, reef bleaching and more.


For those of us that feel, and exhibit, a commitment to renewable energy and positive environmentalism this rising tide represents a dark and negative trend. in general, Much of this tide is focused on negative interpretations of environmental issues and concerns. Almost every action by the Trump administration, from withdrawing from the Paris Accord. reversing President Obama's environmental initiatives and the ripping apart of the US Environmental Protection Agency, is legitimately viewed as an attack on our common problems. The attack has been relentless, almost entirely negative and promises to continue that way for at least long as the current administration remains in power.

Science knows what coral bleaching and other threats are doing to reefs. Science also knows how to combat this scourge and how to protect our coral reefs. The question is, how do the rest of us help deal with this accelerating catastrophe?


WHAT WE CAN DO

It's difficult to find a more potent threat than the loss of some of the most vital resources on our planet. However, it is becoming increasingly easy to find citizens, scientists and government leaders who are working hard to overcome this phenomenon. Some focus on controlling and eliminating runoff of toxic chemicals and other threats from beaches and hillsides. Others are working on new programs to raise "juvenile" corals in laboratory conditions and then transplanting these "seedlings" to stressed reefs experiencing increasing mortality. Virtually everyone involved in ocean recreation now does an excellent job of educating their customers of the damage human beings are inflicting on these living things.

To begin a quest for information and activism opportunities we can contact some of the organizations on the results of a Google search for organizations protecting coral reefs. Some are focused on volunteer activies, some of hard science. In any case, all the organizations are "working the problem." They can all use more financial help and more public participation.

To learn more about the scope and nature of this problem here are some useful links:
For more information on Hawaii campaigns and resources click here.

For photos and more on the impact of coral bleaching click here.

An organization known as the Ocean Conservancy has an excellent overview of the state of coral reefs around the world.

The Great Barrier Reef is an amazing resource and is in critical condition.

Find out more about how we can help here.