×

Hawaii county officials close bay to assist coral spawning

KAILUA-KONA (AP) — A Hawaii county has closed a bay to prevent disruption of coral spawning that scientists predicted would occur over two days, officials said.

Hawaii County officials closed Kahaluu Bay to allow the spawning event on Monday through Tuesday on the Big Island, West Hawaii Today reported. The bay reopened on Wednesday.

“It’s so critical for these to be able to successfully reproduce in order, basically, for the population to survive,” said Kathleen Clark of the Kahaluu Bay Education Center’s ReefTeach program.

A mass bleaching event in 2015 killed 95 percent of the cauliflower coral on West Hawaii reefs.

ReefTeach set up a tent at the bay’s entrance to inform visitors of the temporary closure.

Human presence can be disruptive during a spawning event, when corals release gametes, both sperm and egg, into the water where fertilization occurs. The process forms coral in an embryonic state called planulae, Clark said.

Kahaluu Bay is the only park Hawaii County has closed to facilitate a spawning event. The area was also off limits for two half-days in 2018.

The closure this week was a pilot program to gauge the possibility of similar closures at other sites in the future, Clark said.

A couple of years will pass before the success of the Kahaluu Bay closures of 2018 and 2019 can be accurately assessed, Clark said.

“We are seeing some new, small juvenile coral out there, which is a really great sign,” she said.