Coral Bleaching on the Kohala Coast

I had been hearing it was bad, I really did not know how bad.

Coral Bleaching
A cauliflower coral (Pocillopora meandrina) mostly bleached, just remnants of healthy coral with symbiotic zooxanthellae algae still in place
Last time we were diving south of Kona the reef looked really healthy. With all of the rains creating murky water we had not been out in over a month. While entertaining off-island guests we went to out favorite beach at Waialea Bay for a little snorkeling and swimming.

It is pretty bad.

The warm waters have been hard on our local corals. Nearly all of the cauliflower coral (Pocillopora meandrina) is completely white, completely bleached. The encrusting lobe and finger coral (Porites lobata) was better, but some colonies were looking a little lighter in color than I would like to see. Some of the other lobe corals (Porites evermanni) were also bleaching.

As we were snorkeling in a fairly shallow bay this could be a worst case sampling of the coastline. I hope so, it was distressing to see the reef under such stress. The water was warm, far warmer than I ever remember in my eight years on island.

The current El Nino event is forecast to last through the end of the year. It will be interesting to see if the corals recover, and how much of the colonies will die. I will have to make a point to swim the same section of reef a few more time as the fall turns to winter. I should swim to the same bit of reef and take a few more photos.