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Lalo Shows Signs of Recovery from 2018 Hurricane Damage

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No Chondria was seen on the reefs at Kuaihelani. Image: Kimberly Jeffries/NOAA

A research expedition in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument has returned to O‘ahu after 20 days at sea conducting coral reef monitoring, damage assessments, and expanding knowledge of limu (algae).

Scientists reported signs of recovery in damage from the 2018 Hurricane Walaka at Lalo (French Frigate Shoals).

NOAA reports that scientists on the August mission found that coral reefs at Lalo previously damaged by the hurricane “showed recruitment of different species of coral.”


They also documented many juvenile and adult fish now in these areas. “An abundance of herbivorous fishes such as manini and kole, which graze on algae, keep the dead coral surfaces clean so that new, juvenile corals can take hold and grow. Observations showed positive signs of the overall health of the reefs and that it is slowly making a comeback,” according to NOAA.

Researchers also saw no sign of the nuisance alga Chondria tumulosa at Kuaihelani (Midway) or Hōlanikū (Kure), after previously being found on the reefs at Manawai (Pearl and Hermes Atoll). 

The mission was the second half of a two-part summer research field season led by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, July 8-27 and Aug. 1-20. Both missions sailed on the charter vessel Imua.

  • Researchers aboard the M/V Imua for the second ONMS cruise to the monument in 2021. Image: Randy Kosaki/NOAA
  • Anchor from shipwreck at Lalo. Image: Kimberly Jeffries/NOAA
  • Large Acropora table corals that survived Hurricane Walaka in the inner lagoon serve as valuable habitat for remaining fishes, like this bigeye (‘Āweoweo, Priacanthus meeki). Image: Kimberly Jeffries/NOAA
  • Researchers documented a large coral head, about 6-7 feet in diameter and over 200 years old, at Lalo. Image: Keolohilani Lopes/NOAA
  • Scientist Taylor Williams examines algae. Image: Jason Leonard/NOAA
  • Scientist Taylor Williams surveys algal growth at Kamole (Laysan). Image: Kimberly Jeffries/NOAA
  • White tip reef shark at Kapou. Image: Kimberly Jeffries/NOAA


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