Officials in Hawaii announced that the state will produce a comprehensive coral reef management plan amidst the second year of widespread bleaching in Hawaiian waters. The state's Department of Land and Natural Resources hopes to implement a management plan by 2016.

Dr. Bruce Anderson from the DNLR explained that the rate of coral bleaching in parts of Hawaii has become unprecedented, and that the reefs are at much higher risk of dying.

"We need to ensure our reefs are as healthy and resilient as possible to maximize the chances of recovery," said Anderson.

The department's current action was prompted by an appeal from the State Office of Environmental Quality Control (OEQC) in October to temporarily stop the collection of herbivore fish for display in aquariums. The commercial use of these species does not contribute significantly to the health of coral reefs in the state.

However, Suzanne Case, chair of the DNLR, explained that the taking of commercial aquarium fish does not occur, to any great extent, off most of the Hawaiian Islands. The fishery is mainly focused in West Hawaii, she said.

According to Case, data suggests the herbivores, which consists of 92 percent of the catch, have increased over the years and are now more numerous there than any in other place in the Hawaiian archipelago. She also explained that no parrotfish are collected by aquarium collectors in West Hawaii.

Aquatic Biologist Dr. William Walsh said that species of fish that help the reefs, such as the parrot fish, are the ones that are collected least for aquariums. He said protection of these species is vital, and the state's management plan should address the issue. He also believes that an aquarium fishing ban is not the right solution.

Anderson said that coral reef resilience and recovery is very complex, so the management plan will have to address site-specific stressors.

Case added that within the management plan, they hope to reiterate steps that every Hawaii resident and visitor can take to help our coral reefs.

Meanwhile, in October this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported a massive bleaching was occurring worldwide.

Photo: NOAA's National Ocean Service | Flickr

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