Hawaii To Develop Coral Reef Management Plan To Address Coral Bleaching

The state’s land and resources chief doesn’t see aquarium fish collection as a cause for coral bleaching

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Bicolor Parrotfish ( Cetoscarus bicolor ). Via Rling /Wikipedia
John Virata

The state of Hawaii is developing a comprehensive coral reef management plan in an effort to address the mass coral bleaching that is occurring across the Hawaiian archipelago, according to Big Island Now.

The plan is being developed in an effort to keep the state’s coral reefs as healthy as possible as the reefs suffer the effects of coral bleaching, and after the State Office of Environmental Quality Control asked the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources consider a moratorium on the collection of reef fish for the aquarium trade. However, the DLNR rejected the moratorium, noting that the reef fish that are most noted for helping the reefs, parrotfish, are not being collected in significant numbers.

“Coral bleaching in some parts of Hawai’i is unprecedented in recorded history, placing our corals at much greater risk of dying,” said Dr. Bruce Anderson, administrator for the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources. “We need to ensure our reefs are as healthy and resilient as possible to maximize the chances of recovery.”

“Aquarium fish collecting is not thought to contribute significantly to the problem, while declines in populations of large-scale coral scraping herbivores such as parrotfish (uhu) are a significant issue for our reef health,” Anderson said.

Suzanne Case, the chair of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources also noted that commercial aquarium fishing is occurring mainly on the Big Island and not the other islands in the Hawaiian chain.

“The fishery is primarily centered in West Hawai’i. Fifteen years of data shows that the herbivores making up most of the catch   (92%) have increased over the years and are now more numerous there than any other place in the Hawaiian archipelago,” Case said. “Significantly, no parrotfishes are taken by West Hawai’i aquarium collectors.  On Oahu, less than 20% of all the aquarium animals collected are herbivorous fishes. Again, parrotfishes are essentially not taken by collectors, averaging only 5 a year recently.

“Addressing large-scale stressors like land pollution is a tough, but important, challenge. In the management plan, we hope to reiterate steps that every Hawai’i resident and visitor can take to help our coral reefs.”

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