In an operation reminiscent of the emergency reattachment of severed digits or limbs — in this case, after a mass accident — more than 80 living coral fragments that were broken off the reef at Makako Bay have been replanted on the reef by biologists and staff with the Division of Aquatic Resources of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, DLNR announced Wednesday.
On Nov. 6, DAR staff responded to a report of numerous live coral fragments scattered below the base of a popular manta ray dive site mooring at Makako Bay, also known as Garden Eel Cove, in North Kona.
They found and documented numerous broken coral colonies along the day-use mooring line and approximately 150 broken coral fragments in the sand at the base of the mooring.
Night dives to view manta rays are a popular visitor activity in Kailua-Kona.
While 80 coral fragments were healthy enough to be restored to the surrounding reef with specialized marine epoxy, the other 70-odd fragments were buried in the sand and no longer viable, DLNR said.
The agency said DAR will monitor the transplanted corals over the next year to evaluate their health and regrowth success.
The exact cause of the damage, which likely occurred more than two weeks before the Nov. 6 report to DAR, could not be determined, the announcement said.
“Because of the ecological importance of this type of (branching) coral and its need for recovery, state rules preventing coral damage are critically important,” DAR /Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit Monitoring Coordinator Lindsey Kramer said in the announcement, which also noted that branching corals provide important habitat to many other reef creatures, including juvenile fish.
“We were glad that a portion of these damaged corals could be given a second chance to survive, ” Kramer said.
The viability of coral reefs worldwide, including in Hawaii, is threatened due to human activity and warming seas produced by climate change, DLNR’s website states.
Branching corals in West Hawaii recently experienced a severe bleaching and mortality event resulting in the loss of a large portion of the population in the region, the announcement said.
DLNR reminded the public that the taking, breaking or damaging of any stony corals or live rock is prohibited under Hawaii Administrative Rules.