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Help monitor the health of Maui reefs

By Staff | Oct 1, 2015

The state last week reported that coral “bleaching,” a stress response caused by high ocean temperatures that makes corals appear white and can ultimately lead to their death, is reaching unprecedented levels across Hawaii.

State and federal agencies charged with protecting and monitoring the health of coral reefs are justifiably concerned.

In response, the Division of Aquatic Resources is supporting the first-ever “Bleachapalooza,” a grassroots effort that will unite volunteers statewide to receive training on how to identify coral bleaching in their areas and report their findings to the Eyes of the Reef Network (www.eorhawaii.org).

The network plays a key role in the state’s coral bleaching response plan by reaching out to ocean users and providing additional assessment and reporting capacity of coral damage.

“Bleachapalooza” is the brainchild of Maui community organizer/ocean steward Liz Foote and Division of Aquatic Resources Maui Special Projects Coordinator and Eyes of the Reef Maui Coordinator Darla White.

They are focused on spreading the messages of how to kokua our coral reefs during this stressful time, and how to get more people involved in reporting bleaching in the waters they most frequently use to the EOR network.

White explained, “We initially conceptualized ‘Bleachapalooza’ as an event for Maui that would provide a way for people to take positive action for our reefs by reporting coral bleaching. Once we started talking to our colleagues, it immediately became clear that this call for action should extend statewide.”

On Oct. 3, when ocean temperatures are predicted to peak, trained volunteers will simultaneously enter the ocean on Maui, Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii Island to look for bleaching on coral reefs. The information they gather will give a better understanding of the extent of the coral bleaching and future conservation options for reefs statewide.

The Eyes of the Reef Network is offering free coral bleaching identification training before “Bleachapalooza.” For Maui, the session is set for Oct. 3 at 9 a.m. at Kahekili Beach Park in Kaanapali. For more information, or to register, e-mail kaanapalimakaiwatch@gmail.com.

Training is not mandatory to participate in “Bleachapalooza,” but you should be a confident snorkeler, free diver or SCUBA diver, have a basic understanding of what coral is and be able to recognize white, bleached corals.

For updates on the Bleachapalooza event, check the Eyes of the Reef Facebook page at www.facebook.com/eyesofthereef.

Help the state and environmentalists track the health of our precious coral reefs.

“The ocean is the lifeblood of Hawaii, and our coral reefs are the building blocks for the entirety of a healthy aquatic ecosystem,” DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said,

“Virtually everyone in Hawaii enjoys the ocean in some way, and anything we can all do to help protect coral reefs will help protect our most vital natural resource for generations to come.”