Terry Lilley discusses the white coral disease ravaging Kauai.
This website was created in response to a fast-growing crisis, a bacterial infection of the coral reefs on Oahu and Kauai. This white coral disease has been found along the reefs of the north shore of Kauai and as far south as Ahukini Landing off Lihue. A similar bacterial infection has been observed in Kaneohe Bay on Oahu.
The alarming fact is the rate of growth of this bacteria. Corals, fifty years old are dying in a matter of months, even weeks. Please watch the video narrated by Terry Lilley, the formost expert on this outbreak.
“The disease outbreaks are the final straw that will break the camel’s back,” said Greta Abey, a researcher with the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. “These coral reefs have been overused for how many decades now? Over fished for how many decades? They are at the tipping point and they are starting to tip down and that is really alarming.”
Since 2009, outbreaks have also been found on Maui and the Northwestern Hawaiian islands. A NOAA study once valued Hawaii’s reefs at more than $33 billion dollars. Much to lose if scientists don’t solve this microscopic problem.
“You are going to start to lose your fisheries and not to mention the tourist issue here,” Abey said. “Economically, it is critical for the state of Hawaii to maintain the coral reef resources in a healthy state.”
This is a long talk (1.5 hours) that Terry gave on the the White Coral Disease that is attacking Kauai’s coral reefs. This talk was given at the Princeville Library on March 20th, 2013. It was sponsored by Friends of the North Shore ~ The Dotty Nakea Memorial Speaker Program.
I did a dive two days ago at Tunnels and took video of the same part of the reef that we have been documenting for several years with the white coral disease. This includes the spot where Thierry took has samples for DNA. Looks like there is a whole new outbreak of the disease! This is the third one I have documented. One month ago there were very few new infections but two days ago there were hundreds! Many are already 4 to 10 inches wide. I also dove out at our test site at Anini and there were almost no new infections.
So currently the disease is spreading rapidly again at Tunnels and on the right side of Hanalei Bay but not at Anini! I will be diving the south shore today to see what it looks like.
“Given the scale of the event, the large numbers of corals affected, and the consistent preponderance of a few agents (cyanobacteria and fungi) associated with gross lesions that look similar in both Makua and Anini, this outbreak would have to qualify as an epidemic. This is the first time a cyanobacterial/fungal disease on this scale has been documented in Hawaiian corals.” Dr. Thierry Work, head of USGS Infectious Diseases.
Read the whole report(s)…
Dr. Greta Aeby, PhD. a coral expert with the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, spoke on KHNL News yesterday about the coral disease in Kauai and her team’s efforts to study ways to control its rapid spread. More information and a video clip of the news spot can be seen here: White Coral Disease on KHNL News
Aloha Ocean Lovers,
The last two days Greta Aeby, head of UH marine biology department, and her assistant Amanda (the reef doctor) along and with Thierry Work, head of Infectious Disease for the USGS were in Kauai on my behalf to do a major coral disease study at Anini Beach!
As you know I have been tracking the outbreak of a deadly coral bacteria known as cyanobacteria, along the north shore of Kauai for over a the year. One year ago I took HD underwater video of this rapid spreading disease and found only a 100 or so infected corals at 20 different dive location on the north shore.
Currently this disease has now spread to over hundreds of thousands of corals killing each coral at over one inch a week! Nowhere has there ever been such a fast spreading disease documented over time with HD video, and this disease may also be effecting fish, sea turtles and humans!
I have filed many reports about this disease with almost all of the Kauai politicians from Gary Hooser, Mel Rapozo, DOH, DLNR, Surfrider, The Sierra Club, The River Hui all the way to the USFWS and NOAA in Honolulu. Most of those reports went un-noticed so I finally asked UH to come help me out with this study.
Thierry Work from the USGS came over to Kauai in August and did extensive DNA and toxicology testing on this disease at Tunnels Reef. An official report was filed by the USGS saying how bad of shape the reefs are at Tunnels and documenting how fast and far this new cyanobacteria has spread! It was not a positive report! The report also did toxicology studies of the infected corals and it was discovered that the cyanobacteria may be specific to Kauai, and an entirely new strain.
Due to this report and testing, Greta Aeby planned a trip to Kauai with the USGS to do further extensive studies of this bacterial infection of our reefs. We completed this study over the past two days which involved very difficult work and being underwater for over 12 hours!! The following is a brief outline as to what was done to try and understand this new bacteria and try a possible cure before it takes over our reef system here in Kauai!
Since I have video of over 3,000 infected and fast dying corals from all over the north shore of Kauai from Pila’a to Ke’e I choose the Blue Hole at Anini for the study. There is a high concentration of infected corals in a small area and it is protected from the surf so the four divers could safely do this underwater work.
We fist swam out and Greta took pictures of each infected coral I located for her. These corals I have been taking video of for years so I have video when they were healthy and now dying quickly. She also took detailed photos of the reef in the area and I was making a movie of the whole event. Once Greta took her pics and marked each infected coral then Thierry came in a took sample of the disease, in a test tube with Greta to be analysed by the chemistry department and microbiology department at UH.
Thierry then hammered into the infected coral and took core samples for DNA testing and he also took samples of the healthy part of each coral. After Thierry was finished, Amanda came in and applied a resin to the infected coral as a barrier between the spreading infection and healthy coral. We are testing to see if this barrier stops the spread of the disease. This resin barrier can also contain chemicals to try and kill the disease.
Once this process was done then Amanda put a resin tag numbering each infected coral and a bright ribbon to mark each spot. Then they all went on to do the same thing to 16 other coral infections I had previously located. It took the team almost an hour to photograph, treat, measure and GPS each infected coral! Another diver,Scott Bacon, then came by and took a GPS reading on each treated coral.
I took a video of each infected coral before and after the treatment and it will be my job to go back every 3 to 5 days and video each coral to see if the disease has spread and if so by how much. I will send a picture out of the video of each coral tested to Greta and her team so they can analyse exactly how this disease spreads.
Within a month or two we should have a full report back from UH and the USGS with their findings, like they did in the August study at Tunnels. I will publish on my web all the pics of the infected corals every week so the public can see if this new possible cure is working.
This study is world class and these three scientist put their heart and soul into it so please support their efforts as the health of the reef affects us all!! This disease is now spread far and wide so we more than likely will not be able to stop it until we find out where it came from, and what caused it to spread all over the north shore of Kauai in just four months!
Please tune into KKCR Radio show in Kauai today from 4:00 to 6:00 as I will be on the air taking out the health of our reefs, this new disease outbreak and how all of this may effect the surfing, diving, fishing and tourist industry here on Kauai. You can also call in with questions and your own personal observations.
Marine Biologist ~ Hanalei HI
An interdepartmental team consisting of top scientists from the UH at Manoa, USGS, NOAA and DLNR is heading to Kauai’s serene north shore to investigate the rapid spread of this coral disease. KITV did an interview of Terry Lilley, the biologist responsible for documenting the advance of the bacteria. View the newsclip here: KITV INTERVIEW
Use the Paypal Donate Button on the right to contribute to the study and control this very aggressive disease.