Hawai'i Coral Reef Network


Current coral reef research projects on the Big Island
Last updated March 7, 2000

  1. Aquarium reef fish collecting impact study
  2. West Hawai'i Aquarium Project
  3. Reef monitoring at Kapoho
  4. Succession of corals on lava flows in Puna
  5. Pelekane Bay biological assessment
  6. Kona sport diver impact study
  7. Kona mooring pin study
  8. Kawaihae coral transplant study
  9. Sea Turtle Research Program

Do you know of any ongoing research that is not on this list? Please let me know at Tissot@hawaii.edu. Mahalo!

(1) Aquarium reef fish collecting impact study

Principal investigators: Dr. Leon Hallacher & Dr. Brian Tissot, UH Hilo; Dr. Bob Nishimoto, DAR, Dept. of Land and Natural Resources, Hilo.

Research associates: Brent Carmen, DAR, Dept. of Land and Natural Resources, Hilo; Brent Larsen, Robert Ames, UH Hilo

Sponsor: DAR, Dept. of Land and Natural Resources.

The study is designed to assess the impact of reef fish collecting along the Kona coast. Target fish species are counted in areas that collectors harvest fish (near Honokohau Harbor and North Red Hill) and in areas were collecting is prohibited (Old Kona Airport and Red Hill). Comparisons through time should measure any changes due to fish collecting. Surveys are conducted monthly.

Status:  1996-1998 Impacts of Aquarium Collectors Final Report

(2) West Hawai'i Aquarium Project: Fishery Management of Marine Protected Areas

Principal investigators: Dr. Brian Tissot, Washington State University Vancouver, Dr. Leon Hallacher, UH Hilo; Dr. Bill Walsh, Division of Aquatic Resources, DLNR, Kona.

Collaborators: Bob Nishimoto, Pete Hendricks, Brent Carmen, Division of Aquatic Resources, DLNR; Sara Peck, Univ. Hawai'i Sea Grant Extension Service.

Research associates: Jonathan Hultquist, Washington State University, Vancouver; Steve Cotton, Anne Creason, Greg Polloi, Linda Prescit, Dan VanRanvensway UH Hilo.

Sponsor: Hawai'i Coral Reef Initiative Research Program

The study is designed to provide an assessment of the effectiveness of the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area as mandated by Act 306. One of the major components of the Act is to establish a minimum of 30% of the Kona coastline as Fish Replenishment Areas where aquarium fish collecting is prohibited. In addition to providing an ongoing assessment of the impact of aquarium reef fish collecting along the Kona coast, this study will examine the effectiveness of marine protected areas as a fishery management tool..  Surveys are conducted bi-monthly. See the WHAP website for more information.

Status: ongoing since March 1999

(3) Reef Monitoring at Kapoho

Principal investigators: Dr. Leon Hallacher, UH Hilo& Dr. Brian Tissot, Washington State Univ.

Research associates: undergraduate students at the UH Hilo (Summer Session)

Sponsor: Kalakaua Marine Education Center

This research has been conducted jointly with students enrolled in the University of Hawai'i at Hilo's Tropical Marine Research course annually during summer session since 1992. Coral bleaching is a phenomena whereby corals lose their mutalistic microscopic plants and hence their color becomes white. Bleaching is believed to be a response to both natural and anthropogenetic stress and is of global concern due to its link with global warming and destruction of stratospheric ozone. We have been monitoring the abundance and extent of bleaching in all major species of coral at Kapoho. In recent years we have begun to measure declines in coral abundance although it is not clearly associated with bleaching. Because we now have four years of research the work will soon be written up for publication in a professional journal.

Status: ongoing since 1992

(4) Succession of corals on lava flows in Puna

Principal investigators: Michael Childers and Dr. Brian Tissot, UH Hilo

Sponsor: Kalakaua Marine Education Center

This is a project which is examining the development and succession of corals by surveying reefs on submerged lava flows of different ages in Puna. The importance of the project is to establish a relationship between the development of coral reefs and economically important marine resources. One problem contributing to the worldwide destruction of reefs is a poor understanding of their contribution to marine fisheries. The project is in its preliminary stages and more surveys are planned this year with marine science students. I recently gave a talk on this research at a national meeting. Additional research will be disseminated through talks at scientific and public meetings and publications in professional journals.

Status: initial project finished 1994

(5) Assessment of marine biota and habitat at Pelekane Bay

Principal investigator: Dr. Brian Tissot, UH Hilo

Research associates: Brett Martin, Windy Gibson and Kent Backman, UH Hilo

Sponsor: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Pelekane Bay has served as both a historical and cultural center for native Hawai’ians, in addition to serving as an valuable nursery area for commercially and recreationally important marine resources. In the last several decades this area has been subjected to considerable anthropogenetic disturbance due to the construction of the Kawaihae boat harbor and changes in the drainage patterns of the 12,000 acre watershed mauka of the Bay. The marine flora and fauna of Pelekane Bay was surveyed for the National Park Service in 1976. The goal of this project will be to resurvey the area to assess any long term changes in the marine biota and habitat of the area with the ultimate goal of providing guidelines for restoration of the Bay to enhance nearshore fisheries. This work will be published in a professional journal.

Status: project finished 1995-97 20 years of change at Pelekane Bay

(6) Kona sport diver impact study

Principal investigators: Dr. Brian Tissot & Dr. Leon Hallacher, UH Hilo; Dr. Bob Nishimoto, DAR, Dept. of Land and Natural Resources, Hilo.

Research associates: Marian Westley, UH Manoa; Brent Larsen, Robert Ames, UH Hilo

Sponsor: Dept. of Land and Natural Resources, Main Hawaiian Islands Marine Resource Investigations project.

The study is designed to provide baseline information on coral cover and health on selected west Hawaii reefs that are subject to heavy non-consumptive scuba diving vs reefs receiving less diving pressure. The proposed study areas are Mahaiula State Park, Pine Trees Fishery Management Area, North of Cook Point, and Kealakekua Bay (currently only the latter is being studied). The main hypothesis to be tested is that reefs dived less frequently will exhibit greater coral cover and less signs of coral damage than reefs subject to intense non-consumptive use. Sampling methods to be employed in this investigation include photoquadrant of benthic invertebrates and quadrant search for solitary macroinvertebrates. Each of the four survey areas will be sampled at least two times per year, with control and treatment pairs being surveyed on the same day or on successive days.

Status: 1996-1998 Diver Impacts on Coral Reefs of Kealakekua Bay, Hawai'i

(7) Kona pin mooring impact study

Principal investigator: Steve Russell, UH Manoa

Research associates: Anthony Pico, Joe Tegeder, Kristi West, Mark Carmichael, UH Hilo

Sponsor: Dept. of Business, Economic Development and Tourism and TORCH (The Ocean Recreation Council of Hawaii).

This study is designed to assess the effectiveness of installing pin moorings at Puako and near the Old Kona Airport to decrease the incidence of anchor damage to coral reefs. Surveys will be conducted over a two year period at each site and coral abundance will be compared below pin moorings and in areas at least 50 m distant from the site to assess changes in coral abundance associated with mooring use.

Status: ongoing since 1996

(8) Kawaihae coral transplant study

Principal investigator: Dr. Paul Jokiel, UH Manoa

Research associates: Dr. Evelyn Cox, Marian Westley and students from Hawaii Preparatory academy

Sponsor: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Corals that are located in and near the Kawaihae small boat harbor are being transplanted offshore prior to expansion of the harbor, which is scheduled to begin in Feb. 1996. The goals of this project are to prevent damage to corals in the footprint of the new jetties; to have seed colonies which can be transplanted back unto the new jetties to accelerate coral establishment; and to gain knowledge on the effectiveness of transplantation as a mechanism to restock coral depleted areas.

See also link with Hawai'i Preparatory Academy students

Status: project finished 1995-97

(9) Sea Turtle Research Program

Principal investigator: George Balaz, National Marine Fisher Service and Dr. Marc Rice, Hawai'i  Preparatory Academy

Research assistants: students from Hawai'i Preparatory Academy

Sponsor: Hawai'i Preparatory academy

This program is a cooperative study between HPA and the National Marine Fisheries Service, Honolulu laboratory. For more information see the link at the Hawaii Preparatory Academy.

Status: ongoing since 1995


Last update: 1/25/2005