Fiji bleaching event

Bruce Carlson carlson at
Sat Apr 8 18:34:51 EDT 2000

When Al Strong mentioned the "hot water" event going on now in the south
Pacific, I contacted friends in Fiji to see if they noticed anything.  Below
I have copied the messages I received over the past few days.  The area
where this person dives is around the island of Beqa which is surrounded by
a large barrier reef, and the south coast of Viti Levu in the Pacific
Harbour/Deuba area.  He does not think this is an island-wide event, ie, the
reefs on the north side of Viti Levu may be unaffected since the pool of hot
water seems confined to the southern areas of Fiji.

Bruce Carlson

April 5:  Thanks Bruce for your message concerning hot water. Thanks for
forwarding  Ed's report on bleaching, unfortunately I have not found time to
call him.  I have not observed the degree of bleaching that is being
reported. Most bleaching I have seen is in an area by Navua river where this
occurs frequently and I believe this is a result of mud and freshwater.
Rather then heat. We are seeing some species of coral such as Favites that
are bleached, but again I have not seen large areas of bleaching when

Then this message came in:
April 5:  Just after I sent your email the divers came in with reports of
large areas of white coral. I will try and get to the area they have been
diving this weekend.  The corals had lots of soft pastel purple. So far I
still have not seen much but it does look as if I might have been just lucky
in where I went diving.

Then today's message:
April 8:  The situation has changed dramatically for the worse here. On
Thursday the corals were in the bleaching process. We were told most the
area inside the reef had turned white. This is on the main barrier reef on
the south east side, it is inside the reef in snorkeling depth.

Knowing that the hot water in the lagoon would probably affect the corals
even in the deeper water of the lagoon I set my sites on the outside of the
reef where the shelf dropped off quickly to depth. Hoping the strong
currents, waves, and wind would keep the outside of the reef cooler with the
deep water next to it. Unfortunately we checked along 20 kilometers of reef
and it is all bleaching with many corals starting to die. All species of
coral are affected and everywhere you look thousands upon thousands of coral
are losing the color and going white. We soon quit diving as it was too
depressing and you could spot check over the side of the boat and
immediately see the problem. I believe that most likely all fifty kilometers
of the reef are effected. Certainly thirty are for sure.

I then checked some channel reefs and they were the same. I ended up this
most depressing day on a reef Deuba side that I dove on Monday five days
earlier. There was little sign of bleaching then with many nice corals
Monday. I went to that same spot and there did not appear to be more then
10% of the reef healthy. In the five days many corals had died and most were
bleaching. All species were effected except pipe organ at 50 feet depth.

It looks to me that it could all be finished within a week or two at the
most. The problem first cropped up two weeks ago and has moved at incredible
speed. The difference five days made on the reef I refer to above, I simply
would not believe it, if I had not seen it with my own eyes.

I am assuming it will be years for any of this to recover?  I will check the
reef weekly and keep you informed.

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