Fiji reefs under stress

Losalini Bolatagici Fiji Times 13 May 16;

NOT only have reefs in Fiji sustained mechanical damage from Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston but a recent survey reveals that reefs are also under bleaching stress from the El Nino cycle.

Wild Conservation Society (WCS) director Dr Sangeeta Mangubhai said the reefs showed signs of coral bleaching of about 20 per cent caused by thermal stress from the El Nino cycle based on a 10-day survey she carried out at the Vatu-i-Ra seascape after the cyclone.

She said post-cyclone, the temperature had dropped a couple of degrees and ranged from 27-28 degrees Celcius, which if continued, would help corals return to normal.

The road to recovery, she said, would depend on how well corals successfully reproduced and their larvae settled on to reefs.

She said her concern was that corals under bleaching stress would invest their energy in staying alive, and would forfeit reproduction for about 12 months.

If this happened, she said, the recovery of Fiji's reefs might be slow or delayed.

"This is the first time I am aware of that our reefs have had to deal with both climate-induced bleaching stress and the mechanical damage from a cyclone.

"It is going to be even more important over the next 12 months and longer for us to look after our coral reefs in Fiji to give them the best fighting chance of recovery.

"Instead of seeing them as infinite resources for us to use without limit, we should see them like our gardens and plantations, needing care and maintenance to ensure they grow and remain healthy."

Coral Bleaching in Fiji worst seen in 16 years
Jacquee Speight Fiji Broadcasting Corporation 15 May 16;

Fiji has lost about 50% of the corals on our shallow reef areas due to coral bleaching- something which is of great concern for communities along the coast.

The world’s oceans continue to heat up from the combined impacts of El Nino and climate change.
Director Reef Explorer, Fiji Victor Bonito says reefs along Viti Levu’s coral coast have not been spared.

“The El-Nino this year on top of our slowly increasing sea water temperatures sort of pushed us over a really high temperature threshold. This is the worst bleaching that we’ve had experienced along the coral coast since Fiji experienced its first mass bleaching event back in 2000.”

Bonito fears the marine life that helped damaged corals to recover last time may be in decline and it is for this reason that Pacific nations need to take action to ensure their reefs remain sustainable.

Scientists estimate that half the coral in protected reefs around Fiji have been bleached.

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