This is a second response to this week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme of ‘Waterworld.’ (See more responses here.) Yesterday, I posted about the movie Waterworld. Today, it’s a probably more expected response.
These are photos I took during my swim yesterday. Visibility in the water was patchy with some good areas and some not so good. I didn’t see anything startling, though the mackerel shads aren’t a common sight. Last time I saw such a shoal there was a great barracuda lurking on the other side. I looked around and, sure enough, there was another one looking interested as it cruised low down, too low for a decent photo.
The other oddity was in the photo at left. I saw what I think is a spotted coral blenny on this patch of cauliflower coral, and snapped a quick photo before it took off. But it was only when I processed the photos that I saw something else, to the left and slightly below the blenny. I think it’s a small trumpetfish, but it could be something else. A lot of small fish and other creatures hide in coral heads so I must pay more attention from here on.
This is a typical pose for an arc-eye hawkfish, keeping very still as it nestles in a head of cauliflower coral. But the coral is not well. This patch is mostly bleached. The causes of coral bleaching include warmer than normal water temperatures, pollution, and sunscreens containing coral-killing ingredients.
Because of this third factor, Hawaii has passed a bill which will ban the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. This law goes into effect January 1, 2021. While this will help, it won’t do anything to keep harmful chemicals out of water runoff, and it won’t do anything to prevent the warming of the Pacific Ocean.
Last fall, we had a coral bleaching event here because of warmer ocean temperatures. It wasn’t as bad as feared, but still did damage to corals that were just recovering from previous bleaching events. There are one or two snorkeling sites here that I don’t visit anymore because the state of the coral is just too depressing. I’d like to think that this degradation can be reversed but, honestly, I’m not optimistic about that.
Triton’s trumpets are snails and their shells are the second largest in the Indo-Pacific. They can attain a length of 20 inches. The colorful shells are also quite beautiful, especially when they catch the light filtering down from above.
These snails eat echinoderms including Crown-of-Thorns stars, which feed on corals.
This is the molted shell of an a’ama crab, seen on the North Kohala shore. A’ama crabs are numerous around the Big Island and they scuttle away when disturbed. But while these crabs are black, their molted shells turn red in the sun, as this one has.
Back in the fall of 2014, Hawaiian waters experienced temperatures up to 86°F. This very warm water resulted in a major coral bleaching event statewide. Since that time, water temperatures have been in a more normal range and the coral has stabilized and even shown signs of recovery in places.
In August of this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a warning that another major bleaching event was likely to happen this fall. Last month, NOAA reported that bleaching was already occurring. And I’ve noticed that the water does seem warmer, sometimes disturbingly so.
Because of the bleaching threat, I’ve been looking at the coral when I go snorkeling. There are a few very white patches, but by and large it doesn’t look too bad. This patch of purple coral still looked quite healthy and was host to a saddle wrasse (at right) and three unidentified fish (above).