Coral bleaching in Fiji

Coral cares
Sera Whippy Fiji Times 8 Nov 10;

There are cases of coral bleaching in the furthest islands in the Mamanuca Island group. This was revealed last week by the Mamanuca Environmental Societies project manager, Beitani Salusalu.

Mr Salusalu and a crew of environmentalists look after the marine and terrestrial environment of the Mamanuca area. Their main concern is for the environment itself but also secure the commitment of island resorts and hotels towards their campaign.

However, money and human actions cannot prevent the sudden and violent rages of nature.

With the onslaught of this year's drought and El Nino weather phenomenon, the incidence of coral bleaching is no surprise.

"It is not that serious at the moment but if the temperature continues to be as hot as it is now, there is a high chance of bleaching spreading in these waters," said Mr Salusalu.

The last time our coral reefs were ravaged with coral bleaching was in 2000 where close to 80 percent of coral colonies were bleached during the La Nino phenomenon which followed the 1998 El Nino.

Coral bleaching is caused high sea surface temperatures, around 30-30.5 degrees. Data estimates 10-40 per cent of coral colonies died within four months of the onset of bleaching.

However, local scientists were astonished with the rapid recovery of coral systems. By 2005-2007, majority of the coral colonies had recovered with many newly-formed colonies gr¡owing from dead structures.

Another deadly catalyst in the death of corals is the Crown of thorns starfish.

"We have a few problems with the Crown of thorns starfish. We are fortunate that we have a lot of volunteers who aid us in eradicating these starfishes," said Mr Salusalu.

The MES has been fortunate to have been equipped with 20 cots-guns which is used for the eradication of starfishes.

"Each gun would have cost us at least $300 each. This would not be possible if it was not for the help of sponsors. They have always helped us with whatever we need especially financially," said Mr. Salusalu.

The society is sponsored by ANZ, AON Risk Services, Island Brewery and KPMG. The individual resorts and hotels play major roles in the constant preservation and conservation tasks that they carry out.

"It is not easy but we take it as a great challenge," he said.

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