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Maui Ocean Center, DLNR working on coral recovery, mitigation effort

By Staff | Oct 24, 2013

Divers remove coral at La- haina Harbor.

MAALAEA – Maui Ocean Center is partnering with state agencies in the removal and transport of live coral at small boat harbors throughout Maui County, including Lahaina.

Working with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation and Division of Aquatic Resources, projects are now underway at Lahaina Small Boat Harbor, Kaunakakai Harbor, Maalaea Small Boat Harbor and Manele Small Boat Harbor.

In April of last year, marine contractor American Marine Corp. began project work, including the removal of concrete pilings and performing maintenance dredging at the Lahaina facility.

To help mitigate the impacts on the reef at the Lahaina project site, coral transplantation was performed by Maui Ocean Center staff under the supervision of the DLNR-DAR.

Corals were relocated to other areas outside of the harbor or taken to Maui Ocean Center to be housed and cared for until they are transferred back to the site.

The coral colonies include cauliflower coral (Pocillopora meandrina), lobe coral (Porites lobata) and two types of rice coral: Montipora capitata and Montipora patula.

“We are excited to watch the progress of the coral, both at the harbor and here at Maui Ocean Center,” said John Gorman, head curator. “We have successfully maintained live coral at the aquarium for over 15 years, so working on effective recovery in the open ocean is a phenomenal project for everyone involved.”

Coral transplantation also took place in August of last year, when repair work by Hawaiian Dredging Construction Company at Kaunakakai Harbor on Molokai required the removal of corals from pilings, as well as in June 2013 with the removal of corals from six posts and two beams at Maalaea Small Boat Harbor to prepare for a ferry pier improvement project.

In August of this year, corals at Manele Small Boat Harbor were transplanted to other areas of the harbor to prepare for work to repair tsunami damage, including two rock groins, two public loading docks, a boat ramp loading dock and installation of a 150-foot-long temporary floating dock.

In all, the collaborative efforts saved more than 460 individual coral fragments at the state boating facilities at Lahaina, Molokai and Maalaea.

Upon the completion of work, corals housed at the aquarium will be transplanted back to nearby reefs from which they were rescued.