Coral grown on land is subject of presentation

The Maui News

A land-based coral nursery that quickly grows massive coral colonies for replenishing degraded reefs will be the topic of a free presentation in Maalaea on March 6.

David Gulko, director of the Division of Aquatic Resources’ Coral Restoration Nursery, will speak about the program during the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council meeting. The presentation is open to the public and will take place at the Pacific Whale Foundation’s classrooms at the Maui Harbor Shops. Doors open at 5 p.m., with the hourlong presentation beginning at 5:30. There will also be time for questions; free refreshments will be served.

“Most coral nurseries elsewhere focus on in-water growing of fast-growing branching species to relatively small sizes for outplanting,” said Gulko, a longtime aquatic biologist and coral ecologist with the state. “Unfortunately, these branching species are more susceptible to stress caused by warming ocean temperatures.”

The state recently started an innovative program allowing these massive coral species to be fast-grown in the land-based Coral Restoration Nursery. The program involves the collection of small (10 centimeters) live massive forms of coral colonies, mostly from within public harbors. At the nursery, they are micro-fragged and then fast-grown into large-sized (42 centimeters and more than 84 centimeters) massive colonies in a fraction of the time it would take to occur naturally.

The large colonies are then placed on degraded natural Hawaiian coral reefs. Gulko said the program is now expanding to focus on extremely rare coral species.

For more information on the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council, visit mauireefs.org.

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