State officials say that cinder blocks placed in the ocean as lane markers for a canoe regatta last weekend damaged about 50 to 60 coral colonies in Hawaii island’s Kailua Bay.
The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources announced these findings today after two dive teams documented and photographed the damage on Tuesday.
Last Saturday, the Founders Regatta by the Keauhou Canoe Club was paused when officials discovered that 16 of 28 cinder blocks, weighing 60 pounds each, had been dropped on top of live coral. Racing was allowed to resume after an initial assessment and GPS documentation of the damaged coral.
DLNR after closer analysis of photos now says 50 to 60 coral colonies, rather than 100 as initially reported, were damaged by cinder blocks placed in the ocean as lane markers for a canoe regatta last weekend.
The findings will be reviewed by Division of Aquatic Resources leadership, DLNR said, which will then decide whether to refer the matter to the board for further action.
As of Tuesday, DLNR said all but three of the blocks had been relocated to mostly dead coral rubble.
“We’re tasked with managing and conserving our ocean resources and coral reefs, as the foundations of life in the ocean are vital to its overall health,” said DAR Administrator Brian Neilson in a news release. “As we have done with past coral damage cases, we will work with the canoe club on a settlement which may supplant monetary penalties with community service or other mitigation measures.”
Long-term, DLNR said it plans to work with canoe racing associations to consider permanent mooring pins in race lanes that do not impact coral reefs.
“Canoe racing is grounded in Hawaiian culture, and we recognize its importance to thousands of people across the state,” said DLNR Chair Dawn Chang in the release. “We’re confident that we will collectively come up with a plan that allows canoe racing to continue while simultaneously protecting our precious natural resources.”