Don’t mess with Hawaii’s coral reefs

Did you know that Hawaii is home to over 3/4 of America’s coral reef? It’s not that surprising considering the heaps of divers that make the trek across the Pacific every year to experience the state’s special marine life. Hawaii’s unique ecosystem is its main draw for tourists, and since the reef is just that precious the state has begun to tighten the reigns and give out hefty fines to those who are not responsible underwater.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, “Ruining Coral Draws Fines in Hawaii,” fines of over $100,000 are being given to anyone who causes damage to Hawaii’s reefs. There are also no exceptions to this new rule. The state plans to sue even the U.S. Navy over coral that was ruined when a guided missile cruiser ran aground near Pearl Harbor earlier this year. Another example: a Maui tour company is paying the state nearly $400,000 in fines for damaging more than 1,200 coral colonies when one of its boats sank at Molokini, one of the islands’ most pristine reefs and most popular diving spots.

Experts say coral reefs in the marine national monument, a conservation area in the greater Hawaiian islands that is one of the biggest in the world, are in good shape. However, reef that is closer to Hawaii’s eight major islands centers have experienced severe overfishing and sediment runoff. Careless ocean users, who can kill a 500-year-old coral in just five minutes, are another real and difficultly controlled danger to the reef as well.

[via NatGeo Adventure Travel]