Hawaii plans new management of coral reefs in order to better protect them from the effects of global warming. The state announced that it is currently collaborating with the scientific community in order to gather information about the state of coral reefs in the area in order to be able to make a more comprehensive coral reef management plan.
The new management plan will focus on the building up the resilience of reefs and on restoration efforts for the corals. However officials have said that they will not restrict the taking of the plant-eating reef fish in the area for use in aquariums for now, as this practice does not significantly impact the overall health of coral reefs.
The decision on the use of reef fish in aquariums comes as a response to a request previously forwarded by the State Office of Environmental Quality Control to temporarily ban the collection of plant-eating reef fish for use in aquariums. However a representative for the State Department of Land and Natural Resources has announced that the department has not found scientific evidence to support a strong connection between the aquarium fish trade and the health of coral reefs in the region.
Several environmental groups petitioned the state to consider placing a temporary ban on collecting reef fish for aquariums in light of the extensive coral breeching that happened this year throughout the islands. Representatives for some of these groups have explained that additional steps must be taken to protect the fish that live on these reefs as there are several herbivore species that help keep the coral reefs healthy.
William Walsh, an aquatic biologist currently working with the state, has explained that the grazing species of fish that help the reefs are the ones also least taken for aquariums and the new management plan will more likely than not include better forms of protection for those species. However, he does not believe that a ban on aquarium fishing would be the answer to this problem as it would not have any effect.
Ruth Gates, director of the Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii, has explained that while disrupting the reef ecosystem in any form can be damaging, the aquarium trade does not have a strong impact on the reef bleaching that has been happening in Hawaii. As she went on to explain, while aquarium fishing may not be helping, it has little impact, so it would be better to focus on major causes of the reef bleaching, such as global warming.
It is more likely that the bleaching, which is when the coral expels its algae in reaction to hotter ocean waters, is a consequence of global warming. This loss of algae causes corals to lose nutrients and can be deadly for reefs. The new management plan to better protect reefs is expected to go into use as early as 2016.
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