What you might not know about Hawai‘i’s coral reef ecosystem
Corals aren’t rocks. They’re animals that eat, grow and reproduce.
The reef ecosystem feeds, shelters and provides habitats for fish, protects the shoreline from wave and sand erosion and creates Hawai‘i’s white-sand beaches.
The Hawaiian Islands have 140,000 acres of living reef in the main islands alone, more than the landmass of Honolulu.
A large percentage of coral reefs under U.S. jurisdiction are in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands.
Hawai‘i’s living reef ecosystem has more than 7,000 known species of marine plants and animals.
Because of its isolation, Hawai‘i’s reef has more than 1,250 unique species of marine life that are only found here.
More than 25 percent of all marine life is endemic to Hawai‘i and scientists are constantly finding new species.
More than 500 species of marine algae have been identified in Hawaiian coastal waters.
Algae produce more oxygen than all the land plants in the world combined.
Offshore bank: The economics of a living reef
Hawai‘i’s nearshore reefs annually generate about $800 million in gross revenue—nearly 10 percent of the state’s total tourism revenue.
Each year, reefs along Maui’s Kihei coast contribute $34 million in gross sales, leading to $28 million in added value to the economy.
The degradation of reefs along Maui’s Kihei coast result in an annual loss of more than $20 million to Hawai‘i’s economy.
Impact of algal blooms in Kihei has caused a decrease of hotel and rental income (about $10.8 million) and depressed property value of $9.4 million in 2002.
Maui county condominiums pay $200,000 a year to clean up their beaches. Cases involving coral reef damage in Florida show restoration costs alone can range from $550 to $10,000 per square meter.
Snorkeling and diving are amongst the top five activities for visitors from the mainland and Europe.
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