[Coral-List] Coral Bleaching in Fiji

Victor Bonito staghorncoral at yahoo.com
Thu Feb 11 04:23:46 EST 2016

Dear Coral listers,
Bula from Fiji. Unfortunately I'm writing to report a bleaching event that is currently affecting reefs along Fiji's Coral Coast (southern coast of Viti Levu) where I've been based the last 10 years. The bleaching event came on suddenly over the weekend as seawater temps on the reefs never dropped below 30C (and spiked to 35-36C for over a week) and we had mass fish kills on the reef flats at least two days (Sunday 7th and Monday 8th Feb.). Last Wednesday (3rd Feb) there were minor signs of bleaching on some Acroporids. By this Wednesday (10th Feb), I approximate that roughly 25-30% of the corals in community-established marine protected areas were dead with much of the remaining coral severely bleached. Most affected have been Acroporids, Pocilloporids, Poritids, Agaricids, and Faviids, though there are other corals affected as well. Corals on the forereef are showing signs of heat stress as well, but thus far mass mortality has been confined to the reef flats..
While we are happy to have cloud cover and rain from TC Winston over much of Fiji now, next week is predicted to be hot and sunny again and the hot water will likely sit around us for several more weeks .... this is likely just the start of what we'll experience this year. While we have bleaching event on the reef flats nearly every year around this time, none since 2000 have caused mass mortality as we are seeing now.
So sad to see some of these spectacular coral communities in the local community's marine protected areas be severely impacted so very quickly. The protection of herbivores will be critical to the future of the reef and fisheries. Following the 2000 bleaching, coral communities were largely unable to re-establish in areas where fishing activities continued and the areas are now ~80% macro-algal cover and <10% coral; however, in the few relatively-small (<1km2) no-take MPAs established and enforced by the indigenous fishing rights owners, macroalgae was removed to negligible amounts and diverse coral communities were able to re-establish -  up until last week they covered 50% or more of the hardbottom. Hopefully herbivores will assist these MPAs to remain conducive for coral recruits ... for the fished areas of the reef, I'm afraid this will largely finish off the remaining corals with little hope for recovery unless the community gets serious about herbivore management.

For pictures and temperature data (recorded every 10 min using deployed Vemco loggers) from some of our sites along with associated local and regional news about the event please visit our Facebook page (Reef Explorer Fiji Ltd) : https://www.facebook.com/Reef-Explorer-Fiji-Ltd-1655531604714267
We will be updating our FB page with new pictures, data, and information regularly so please like and follow us if you are interested in how this event progress.
Thank you and vinaka.

Victor Bonito

Director, Reef Explorer Fiji

Box 183, Korolevu, Fiji Islands
(679) 937-8939

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