Teams of divers are working quickly to save broken corals damaged in Honolulu Harbor’s channel two weeks ago following dredging work, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
The DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources has taken emergency action to recover as many living pieces as possible because freshly broken corals and reef substrate can be further damaged by surf. Using a triage approach, divers are quickly assessing which can be reattached, and which to take to the Hawaii Coral Restoration Nursery for regrowth.
David Gulko, director of Hawaii Coral Restoration Nursery, said broken pieces of 7 to 14 inches were selectively collected while larger corals were prioritized for on-site reattachment.
Smaller-sized corals are tough to collect in short time frames because they get tumbled around in the surf, according to Gulko. If less than 7 inches, only corals recognized as rare Hawaiian species will be collected.
The fragments were carefully documented, photographed, and measured before being placed into numbered bags, then deposited into holding bins that were rushed to the coral nursery.
At the nursery, specialist Chelsea Wolke is coordinating the careful placement of the corals into a holding tank, where they are again measured, photographed, and assigned unique chain-of-custody numbers to track them.
No decision has yet been made on whether collected specimens will be grown into larger corals for later out-planting or returned to the site after emergency restoration is completed.
The damage, under investigation, allegedly occurred after a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contractor, Healy Tibbitts Builders Inc., completed dredging work.
State officials believe the dredging platform’s anchor and cable was dragged over several coral colonies at the channel — toppling one estimated to be several hundreds years old — and that debris was deposited on top of them during the job.