The Living Reef

Restoring the health of our coral reefs is essential if we are to create a sustainable future for our islands.

Threats to Hawaiʻi Reefs

Coral is a living animal, and a coral reef resonates with life. But like any living system, it suffers from prolonged exposure to disturbance and stress.

If the threats are not removed, a reef becomes susceptible to invasion, disease, fragmentation, and even death. Biologists tell us this is already happening in the main Hawaiian Islands, and that people are causing most of the damage. Overfishing, pollution, sedimentation, heavy recreational use, and the introduction of alien species are all human activities that jeopardize the long-term health of our reefs. Hawai‘i is not alone. Coral reefs in at east eighty countries are threatened, and within the next fifty years the majority may be damaged beyond repair. The good news is that coral reefs are resilient. If we act in time, we can still heal our troubled waters and bring our reefs back from the brink.

  • Coastal Development

  • Recreational Overuse

  • Coral Bleaching

  • Alien Species

  • Marine Debris and Pollution

  • Natural Disasters

Declining Catch

Hawaii’s coral reefs provide us with fish for both food and the aquarium trade. But increasing numbers of people are fishing, and they’re using more sophisticated gear, vessels, and technology to increase their catch. As a result, we are harvesting marine life faster than it can be replenished through natural growth and reproduction. Studies show that fish stocks are 20 to 25 percent of what they were a century ago, and that the aquarium trade in west Hawai‘i has increased six-fold in the past twenty years.