A popular Hawaii island snorkeling spot will be closed for two mornings this Friday and Saturday, state officials said, to allow corals to spawn and produce new keiki.
The Waialea Bay Marine Life Conservation District, more popularly known as Beach 69 on Hawaii island’s west side, is one of 11 in the state which receive the highest level of protection for their invaluable marine resources, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
The half-day closures at Waialea come on the heels of the announcement of a week-long closure at Kahaluu Bay, starting this Friday as well, to protect spawning cauliflower coral.
“The absence of swimmers and snorkelers in the water during spawning will help best ensure successful reproduction,” said state aquatic biologist Christopher Teague.
DLNR staff will be at Waialea both mornings of the closure to answer questions and help educate people about coral spawning.
Corals spawn during specific moon cycles in the spring. During spawning events, corals emit reproductive materials known as gametes into the water column, which are then carried by tides to generate planktonic coral larvae. When given the chance to settle undisturbed, gametes have a greater chance of settling and growing.
Coral in West Hawaii have benefited from lower numbers of people in conservation districts like Waialea during the pandemic, along with greater awareness about the impacts of harmful sunscreens on aquatic life, officials said.
“We want to give corals every chance possible to reproduce,” said DAR Administrator Brian Neilson in a news release. “Cauliflower coral, in particular, were hammered in both 2015 and 2019 by elevated ocean temperatures which led to mass bleaching events. This, along with all the other environmental stressors reef systems across the state currently face, makes it imperative that we all put up with a bit of inconvenience during spawning.”
Waialea Bay will reopen at noon on Friday and Saturday.