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Voluntary Kahalu'u Bay closure May 10-16

Posted by Heloise L on Friday, 8 May 2020, at 11:28 a.m.
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Here's a portion of today's press release from DLNR:

(Kailua-Kona) – Kahalu‘u Bay on Hawai‘i Island is one of the most popular and heavily visited snorkeling locations in all of Hawai‘i. Hundreds of thousands of people come to view colorful fish and dazzling coral colonies every year, and like in many other over-used locations, the aquatic life in the bay is struggling to survive.

The COVID-19 crisis has provided the opportunity for the bay and its inhabitants to rest. Hawai‘i County’s Kahalu‘u Beach Park has been closed, and now the Kahalu‘u Bay Education Center (KBEC), a program of The Kohala Center, along with the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), are asking everyone to voluntarily refrain from swimming and snorkeling in the bay, particularly during the week of May 10-16 to enhance upcoming spawning of cauliflower coral (Pocillopora meandrina).

According to DAR and Eyes of the Reef Network, cauliflower coral was once abundant on shallow coral reefs along West Hawai'i, including Kahalu'u Bay. However, environment stressors and very high ocean temperatures impacted West Hawai'i in 2015 and again at the end of 2019, causing catastrophic bleaching and mortality for more than 90% of the Kahalu'u Bay population.

KBEC director Cindi Punihaole Kennedy says next week is prime spawning time for the corals, as they only get one chance a year to spawn. “We’re asking everyone to voluntarily avoid snorkeling or swimming in the bay from May 10-16. During broadcast spawning events, corals emit reproductive materials (“gametes”) into the water column and these materials are carried by the tides to mix and generate planktonic coral larvae. Given the chance to settle undisturbed by human activity and/or pollutants, coral gametes will be able to find proper rubble colony areas to settle within the bay.”


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