State officials are heralding a decision to close a popular snorkeling spot in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii island for three half-days as an effective way to protect spawning corals.
Access to parking to the Waialea Bay Marine Life Conservation District, also known as “Beach 69,” was closed the mornings of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources, to allow for the production of new keiki offspring among coral colonies.
Last year, Waialea Bay was closed for only two mornings, but officials increased the days to three this year and will consider similar closures next year.
State officials also closed Kahaluu Beach Park on Monday for this year’s spawning event, as they have over the last two years. The park will remain closed through Saturday
“Our reefs have been damaged in the past few years and since corals are slow growing animals, recovery takes time.” said lead coral monitoring technician Nathan Hayes in a news release. “One of the best ways everyone can help is to be mindful of our land and ocean activities during times of coral spawning.”
Corals spawn during specific moon cycles in the spring, according to officials. During these spawning events, corals emit reproductive materials known as gametes into the water column, which are then carried by tides to generate planktonic coral larvae.
Only a small percentage of gametes from spawning events survive to begin new coral colonies, said Hayes. Given the chance to settle undisturbed, they have a greater chance of growing.
State officials are also asking people to be aware of chemicals from skin care products such as sunscreens, moisturizers, shampoo and conditioners that can have detrimental effects on coral eggs and sperm.
Officials are urging ocean-goers to use non-chemical sunscreens to protect the corals. In Hawaii, there is a statewide ban on the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are widely believed to be contributing to coral loss and death.
Last November, the state installed a reef-safe sunscreen dispenser at the entrance to Waialea Bay through a private-public partnership.
State marine biologists observed spawning in Kiholo Bay, Papa Bay, Heeia Bay and at Kahaluu Bay on Hawaii island at various times this week.