Half of Hawaii's coral reefs bleached

Hawaii Coral Reefs. (Photo: AP)
Hawaii Coral Reefs. (Photo: AP)

Honolulu — Nearly half of the Hawaii's coral reefs were bleached during heat waves in 2014 and 2015 and fisheries close to shore are declining, say a group of scientists.

The scientists from the Nature Conservancy briefed the lawmakers on Thursday, 2 November, about what they called unprecedented for Hawaii's sea life.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials say 56% of the Big Island's coral were bleached, along with 44% along West Maui and 32% around Oahu.

The scientists say more severe and frequent bleaching is predicted.

ALSO SEE: New Great Barrier Reef research expedition to look cause of 'massive 2016 bleaching'

"In the 2030s, 30-50% of the years will have major bleaching events in Hawaii," says Kuulei Rogers of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.

As for fish, a research team from the University of Hawaii compiled data for 15 years and found a 90% decline in overall catch from the last 100 years, which includes fish such as ulua, moi and oio.

"What we found was pretty overwhelming," University of Hawaii scientist Alan Friedlander says. "About 40% of the species will be classified as overfished. The correlations are more people, less fish."

Friedlander suggested expanding marine reserves and says gear restrictions and size limits help, but bag limits and quotas don't work.

Those who fish argued against more regulations.

"If the fishermen don't stand up and come down here and fight for fisherman's rights now, we'll lose more than we can possibly ever imagine," says Makani Christensen of the Hunting, Farming and Fishing Association.

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