HONOLULU (AP) - Researchers who returned from a 24-day expedition to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands said that the pristine coral reef systems there appear to be healthy, thriving and safe from debris dragged to sea by the tsunami that hit Japan last year.
Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who returned from the trip Friday, found no widespread coral or fish disease outbreaks and no evidence of coral bleaching after conducting 472 dives and 138 reef surveys, said Scott Godwin, the expedition's chief scientist.
"You see a lot of sharks, which people think are bad, but a lot of healthy upper-level predators . . . is an indication of health that means there's a lot there to support these larger species," Godwin told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
The remote islands northwest of Hawaii's main, populated islands are home to the country's largest protected marine sanctuary.
Godwin said that the protected status and extremely limited access to the islands have protected the area from human impact.