Corals bleaching in Fiji

Coral bleach impact
Mere Naleba Fiji Times 15 Feb 16;

HIGH sea temperature, which causes coral bleaching in certain parts of the Coral Coast in Sigatoka, has caused the fish mortality rate on the shallow reef flat area to be 25 to 30 per cent.

According to Reef Explorer director Dr Victor Bonito, who is a reef ecologist, said corals in Votua, Votua Lailai and Namada Village had been fully bleached.

He said coral bleaching happened rapidly within a span of one week.

Reef Explorer Fiji Ltd is a community-based research and development business founded in Fiji to promote coral conservation. The organisation is based in Votua Village along the Coral Coast.

"We went from last week to having little to no signs of coral bleaching and this week corals are fully bleached and we've got 25-30 per cent mortality on the shallow reef flat area already," Dr Bonito said.

"There is nothing we can do to prevent coral bleaching from happening, as it is one of the impacts of climate change."

He said Fijians should be educated on building a resilient reef system and to reduce local threat.

"A resilient reef system would mean that it (reef) can fight back and recover from this. Now this is really important," Dr Bonito said.

"There are two things that we need to do. One is to reduce our local threat so it is reducing the problem of overfishing, water pollution, mud and sedimentation on our reef."

He said another factor to consider was to protect fish species such as the parrot fish (ulavi), sivisivi, ta, surgeon and rabbit fish because those were the herbivores of the ocean, meaning they fed on plants and grazed on algae on the reef.

"So these fish play an important role and particularly right now when we have all these dying of corals, what's going to happen is - this fish is going to be able to keep eating the algae and keep the reef clean, so that new corals can recover and grow back," he said.

"Or if not, what's going to happen is that algae will occupy that space and then it will end up in a jungle of algae in the corals. Now this has been a problem along the Coral Coast in Fiji where overfishing has led to the depletion of herbivores and we have algae overgrown in much of our reef areas."

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