Maui News

Honolua Bay coral restoration project under way

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MOCMI coral that will return to Honolua Bay in the coming months.

One year after a luxury yacht caused extensive damage to the reef in Honolua Bay on Maui’s northwestern coast, staff and volunteers with the Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute (MOCMI) continue to care for coral fragments collected from the reef.
MOCMI operates under a Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources special activities permit allowing it to mitigate coral damage incidents in collaboration with the state.
“We anticipate the corals will be transported back to Honolua Bay for re-attachment this spring or summer,” said Dustin Paradis, MOCMI’s Conservation Programs Manager.

After the yacht Nakoa was removed from the reef in early March 2023, two coral specialists from Maui Ocean Center assisted MOCMI staff and volunteers in collecting the damaged coral colonies so they could be rehabilitated back at MOCMI’s coral nursery in Māʻalaea.
The Maui Ocean Center aquarium opened in 1998 by Coral World International. It offers space and critical infrastructure to MOCMI, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the survival of sea turtles and coral reefs in Hawaiʻi.
Once at MOCMI’s nursery, which utilizes saltwater pumped from Māʻalaea Bay, the damaged coral went through a “quarantine and acclimation phase” to make sure it was healthy and free of any disease, Paradis said.  
Using a micro-fragmentation process, the coral was eventually cut into small pieces and glued to aragonite plugs. The coral then establish and grow around the plug before being returned to the ocean.

Currently, one aquarium at MOCMI’s nursery is devoted to a variety of coral species, including lobe and cauliflower corals, from Honolua Bay. Several other tanks have coral colonies for a research and restoration project in Olowalu, in collaboration with the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology’s Coral Resilience Lab.
Each day, MOCMI staff and volunteers assist with coral husbandry—cleaning the tanks, feeding the coral, and testing the water’s temperature, salinity and pH levels.
Yellow tangs and native Hawaiian collector urchins are also in the tank, to help clean the coral by eating any algae that grows on it. After the corals are suitable for transplant, they will be placed back in Honolua Bay later this year.
“Our team is very excited to return these corals to their home reef,” Paradis said, “and to continue expanding our efforts in restoring Maui’s nearshore reefs.”

MOCMI volunteer Ashley Getz holds coral that will return to Honolua Bay in the coming months.


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