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White Coral Disease Spreading Along Kauai's North Shore

Disease first discovered in reefs on Oahu are devastating corals on Kauai.

November 19, 2012

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MWS Disease

This photo by Dr. Greta Aeby of the Hawaiian Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa shows healthy coral in the left corner and the dead white coral in the center. Photo credit: Dr. Greta Aeby.

disease that has devastated coral reefs in Kaneohe Bay on the windward side of Oahu is also damaging coral reefs on Kauai, according to a report on the Garden Isle website. The white coral disease, which scientist Dr. Greta Aeby last year alerted scientists and divers to be on the lookout for in Kaneohe Bay, is black in color and kills the live coral tissue, leaving just the white skeleton of the coral.

Marine biologist and SCUBA diver Terry Lilley received Aeby's alert and noted that what was described in the alert was similar to what he was seeing on reefs on Kauai. Lilley, who began filming the infections last year documented 100 coral infections on rice corals, which is the main victim of the disease, at 20 dive locations throughout Kauai. He told the Garden Isle that the number of infected corals today is likely in the millions.

“Last summer, for some unknown reason, the infection rates went up to 100 infections per dive, to where now, at a number of sites, there are so many infections we are counting the corals that are not infected,” he told the Garden Isle. "Every place along the North Shore we are finding this stuff, and a lot of it.”

Reviews of older footage shows the disease in Lilley's videos as far back as 2007, which could give scientists a timeline as to when the disease began to appear on Kauai's reefs. The U.S. Geological Survey has been conducting field work for more than a year to sample corals as well as the water column to try and determine what is causing the death of various reefs in waters off Hawaii. A full report is expected at the end of the year.

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White Coral Disease Spreading Along Kauai's North Shore

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Reader Comments

Ken    Atlanta, GA

11/21/2012 5:45:36 AM

I hope that the Fish Channel will let us know what the full report says when it comes out at the end of the year. I would be very interested. Thanks.

Angelo    San Leandro, CA

11/19/2012 9:56:22 PM

Coral just can't get a break!

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