Bleachapalooza Event to Monitor Coral Bleaching
High ocean temperatures are causing unprecedented levels of coral bleaching across the state. Coral bleaching is coral’s stress response to warm water temperatures and causes coral to appear white, eventually leading to its death.
State and federal agencies whose responsibility is protecting and monitoring the health of coral reefs have responded, and now volunteer organizations are now looking to help.
Bleachapalooza, a grassroots effort with support from volunteers across the state and the Department of Land and Natural Resource’s Division of Aquatic Resources, will take place on Oct. 3. The event will bring together individuals who have received training on how to identify coral bleaching in their areas. Findings will be reported to the Eyes of the Reef Network.
The EOR Network allows ocean users to provide assessments and report coral damage in their local areas. The network then provides important information to the state’s coral bleaching response plan.
“The ocean is the lifeblood of Hawai’i and our coral reefs are the building blocks for the entirety of a healthy aquatic ecosystem,” said DLNR Chair Suzanne Case. “Virtually everyone in Hawai’i enjoys the ocean in some way and anything we can all do to help protect coral reefs will help protect our most vital natural resource for generations to come.”
Liz Foote, a community organizer, thought up Bleachapalooza, along with DAR Maui special projects coordinator and Eyes of the Reef Maui coordinator Darla White.
The pair hopes that the message of how to kokua the reefs during times of extra coral stress will spread through the project, and that more people will get involved in reporting bleaching to the EOR network.
“We initially conceptualized Bleachapalooza as an event for Maui that would provide a way for people to take positive action for our reefs by reporting coral bleaching,” said White. “Once we started talking to our colleagues, it immediately became clear that this call for action should extend statewide.”
Ocean temperatures are predicted to peak on Oct. 3, so on that day, trained volunteers will head out into the ocean on the Big Island, Maui, Oahu, and Kauai to monitor bleaching on coral reefs.
Prior to Bleachapalooza, the EOR Network will provide free training to interested volunteers across the state. Big Island training will be held on Sept. 26 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. or 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the West Hawai’i Civic Center, building G.
The Big Island’s Bleachapalooza will be held at Kahalu’u Beach Park, beginning at 9:30 a.m.
Though training is not mandatory, organizers say volunteers should be confident snorkelers, free divers, or SCUBA divers and understand the basics of what coral is and how to identify white, bleached corals. Those interested in attending the training session should RSVP by e-mailing [email protected]