Climate Change WARNING – NOAA declares third ever global coral bleaching event

Andrei Polejack

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In times in which we talk much on the effects of global warming, it is important to see how the concentration of Carbon in the atmosphere is directly impacting our daily lives. This is a year of strong El Nino event, so wait for more news like this one.

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Bleaching intensifies in Hawaii, high ocean temperatures threaten Caribbean corals

October 8, 2015

October 2015-January 2016: NOAA's standard 4-month bleaching outlook shows a threat of bleaching continuing in the Caribbean, Hawaii and Kiribati, and potentially expanding into the Republic of the Marshall Islands. (Credit: NOAA)
October 2015-January 2016: NOAA’s standard 4-month bleaching outlook shows a threat of bleaching continuing in the Caribbean, Hawaii and Kiribati, and potentially expanding into the Republic of the Marshall Islands. (Credit: NOAA)

As record ocean temperatures cause widespread coral bleaching across Hawaii, NOAA scientists confirm the same stressful conditions are expanding to the Caribbean and may last into the new year, prompting the declaration of the third global coral bleaching event ever on record.

Waters are warming in the Caribbean, threatening coral in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, NOAA scientists said. Coral bleaching began in the Florida Keys and South Florida in August, but now scientists expect bleaching conditions there to diminish.

February-May 2016: An extended bleaching outlook showing the threat of bleaching expected in Kiribati, Galapagos Islands, the South Pacific, especially east of the dateline and perhaps affecting Polynesia, and most coral reef regions in the Indian Ocean. (Credit: NOAA)
February-May 2016: An extended bleaching outlook showing the threat of bleaching expected in Kiribati, Galapagos Islands, the South Pacific, especially east of the dateline and perhaps affecting Polynesia, and most coral reef regions in the Indian Ocean. (Credit: NOAA)

“The coral bleaching and disease, brought on by climate change and coupled with events like the current El Niño, are the largest and most pervasive threats to coral reefs around the world,” said Mark Eakin, NOAA’s Coral Reef Watchcoordinator. “As a result, we are losing huge areas of coral across the U.S., as well as internationally. What really has us concerned is this event has been going on for more than a year and our preliminary model projections indicate it’s likely to last well into 2016.”

While corals can recover from mild bleaching, severe or long-term bleaching is often lethal. After corals die, reefs quickly degrade and the structures corals build erode. This provides less shoreline protection from storms and fewer habitats for fish and other marine life, including ecologically and economically important species.

This bleaching event, which began in the north Pacific in summer 2014 and expanded to the south Pacific and Indian oceans in 2015, is hitting U.S. coral reefs disproportionately hard. NOAA estimates that by the end of 2015, almost 95 percent of U.S. coral reefs will have been exposed to ocean conditions that can cause corals to bleach.

The biggest risk right now is to the Hawaiian Islands, where bleaching is intensifying and is expected to continue for at least another month. Areas at risk in the Caribbean in coming weeks include Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and from the U.S. Virgin Islands south into the Leeward and Windward islands.

The next concern is the further impact of the strong El Niño, which climate models indicates will cause bleaching in the Indian and southeastern Pacific Oceans after the new year. This may cause bleaching to spread globally again in 2016.

Extensive stand of severely bleached coral at Lisianski Island in Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (Hawaii) documented during an August 2014 NOAA research mission. (Credit: NOAA)
Extensive stand of severely bleached coral at Lisianski Island in Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (Hawaii) documented during an August 2014 NOAA research mission. (Credit: NOAA)

“We need to act locally and think globally to address these bleaching events. Locally produced threats  to coral, such as pollution from the land and unsustainable fishing practices, stress the health of corals and decrease the likelihood that corals can either resist bleaching, or recover from it,” said Jennifer Koss, NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program acting program manager. “To solve the long-term, global problem, however, we need to better understand how to reduce the unnatural carbon dioxide levels that are the major driver of the warming.”

This announcement stems from the latest NOAA Coral Reef Watch satellite coral bleaching monitoring products, and was confirmed through reports from partner organizations with divers working on affected reefs, especially the XL Catlin Seaview Survey and ReefCheck. NOAA Coral Reef Watch’s outlook, which forecasts the potential for coral bleaching worldwide several months in the future, predicted this global event in July 2015.

The current high ocean temperatures in Hawaii come on the heels of bleaching in the Main Hawaiian Islands in 2014 ― only the second bleaching occurrence in the region’s history ― and devastating bleaching and coral death in parts of the remote and well-protected Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

“Last year’s bleaching at Lisianski Atoll was the worst our scientists have seen,” said Randy Kosaki, NOAA’s deputy superintendent for the monument. “Almost one and a half square miles of reef bleached last year and are now completely dead.”

Bleached and dead Acorpora coral in the NOAA Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary in American Samoa. Warm Pacific ocean temperatures may lead to an increase in coral bleaching, NOAA scientists said. (Credit: NOAA).
(Credit: NOAA)

Coral bleaching occurs when corals are exposed to stressful environmental conditions such as high temperature. Corals expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, causing corals to turn white or pale. Without the algae, the coral loses its major source of food and is more susceptible to disease.

The first global bleaching event was in 1998, during a strong El Niño that was followed by an equally very strong La Niña. A second one occurred in 2010.

Satellite data from NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch program provides current reef environmental conditions to quickly identify areas at risk for coral bleaching, while its climate model-based outlooks provide managers with information on potential bleaching months in advance.

The outlooks were developed jointly by NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service and the National Centers for Environmental Prediction through funding from the Coral Reef Conservation Program and the Climate Program Office.

For more information on coral bleaching and these products, visit:

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and our other social media channels.

Sailing together : Hōkūle‘a and the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage all the Way to The United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States (UNSIDS) Apia, Samoa, 1 to 4 September 2014

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] love sailing and sailing on traditional boats is a great privilege..

How is the UNSIDS conference so different. You have to know this.

“If we view our Earth as an island it becomes apparent that we must change course to ensure a healthy, sustainable world.” Nainoa Thompson, Master Navigator of the Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia crew, President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Member of the Ocean Elders.

In May 2014, as we celebrated the International Day of Island Biodiversity and International Year of Small Island Developing States, the traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe — Hōkūle‘a, and Hikianalia — her sister voyaging canoe,  set sail on a three-year voyage around the world to charter a new course for a resilient and sustainable future for our islands, oceans and the planet.

The voyage, led by Master Navigator Nainoa Thompson and a new generation of navigators, used only the signs of the waves, winds and stars to find their way to the Third International Conference of Small Island Developing States (UNSIDS) in Samoa in September 2014. These courageous navigators will bring the stories of our worlds islands and oceans to inspire leaders to take action for a sustainable and resilient future. The Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia crew will carry this message to more than 25 countries during its 47,000 nautical-mile voyage crossing 12 Marine World Heritage Sites.

And now the voyage is there… exclusive group of leaders are already sailing together with the United Nations Secretary General on Hōkūle‘a to celebrate both an inspirational island voyage and the efforts of SIDS. You have to be tuned to this ..lets go sailing …

Developing Coastal States Facing Ocean Issues

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here are a lot of obstacles that had to be handling by developing Coastal States. These obstacles include cultural, financial, legal, natural disasters and political aspects to issue and implement management measures to use and preserve marine ecosystems in a sustainable way, especially in the case of fisheries resources.

All Coastal States have the right to use oceans according to the international and customary law, they have also the responsibility to manage stocks occurring within their exclusive economic zones of two or more coastal States or both within the exclusive economic zone and in an area beyond and adjacent to it. That is why countries like the Members of the Organization for Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector of the Central American Isthmus –OSPESCA, are looking to enforce regional regulations intended to manage some resources in common the best way as possible with the harmonization of proceedings and implementation of standards aimed to eradicate illegal fishing.

The OSPESCA Members are cooperating in the establishment of equitable arrangements on a regional basis to exploit, use and preserve living resources. Nowadays there is a regulation range that includes the following topics:

1. Regional aquaculture and fisheries registry
2. Regional regulation for lobster (Panulirus argus)
3. Regional vessel monitoring system
4. Ethic code for responsible fisheries
5. Prohibition for shark finning
6. Proper use of the turtle excluder device
7. Strengthens the whale shark (Rhincodon typus) stocks
8. Prevent, discourage and eliminate illegal fishing

Developing Coastal States as the prior mentioned, know that there is nothing impossible, maybe there are some obstacles in their ways to find a common goal named: Regional Sustainability. But they also know that a key to accomplish that goal is the enforcement of laws and regulations that should be issued to face the problems which are affecting our oceans, such as illegal fishing and the tragedy of the commons.

On World Oceans Day 2014, we have to remember that we all have the power to protect our Oceans!


Guatemala, Climate Change and World Oceans Day 2014

WOD Logo

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n Guatemala, I can surely bet that only a few people know that June 8th is World Oceans Day. What I mean is that many people don´t know that World Oceans Day has a specific date; however, most Guatemalans know, especially the ones living in the coastal zones, that climate change and its severe effects must be taken seriously. How do they know this? Very simple, since they suffer its effects on a daily basis. For instance, during this week they have been suffering the fury of the Tropical Storm Boris, with its torrential rains, floods and mudslides. Even a weather orange alert has been institutionalized and in some regions of the country, the schools have been closed down due to the heavy rains.

In Guatemala, the coastal areas are one of the most vulnerable of all environments to the impacts of climate change. During the past years, the coastal communities, especially those in the Pacific Coast, have suffered from continuous flooding in the low-lying coastal zones, which have destroyed their infrastructure.

Another important effect of climate change in our Pacific Coast has been the increasing loss and degradation of the mangroves in that area. Mangroves are currently one of the most emblematic and globally important ecosystems present in this region. The loss of mangroves need to be taken into consideration in relation to Blue Carbon Sinks, since the carbon captured by living organisms in oceans is stored in the form of sediments from mangroves; thus representing a strong natural carbon sink which combats climate change on an on-going basis.
The importance of the country’s marine coastal zone is evidenced by the goods and services that it offers, including aquaculture, fishing, sailing, tourism and recreation, commercial services, habitat for biodiversity and the protection of the coastline.

This is why the approval of a climate change legislation has been an urgent matter, since Guatemala is prone to natural disasters, mainly attributable to the geographic location of the country – Guatemala lies between the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean which ensures frequent tropical storms and hurricanes.

Last year, the Climate Change Law was finally approved by the Guatemalan Congress giving it the Decree Number 7-2013. This law is vital to the country due to the need to reduce the vulnerability and increase the adaptation to the negative impacts of the climate change in the territory.

In the Law, strategic plans have been established in order to reduce the vulnerability, adaptation and mitigation to climate change. Also, the marine coastal zones have now been taken into consideration since the competent governmental authorities have to implement programs, projects and national actions to prevent and reduce the social environmental vulnerability in the marine coastal zones, focalizing the efforts to minimize the impacts that cause the variability of climate change in the most vulnerable communities – those that are at most risk.

The Decree Number 7-2013 constitutes a step further in the actions to be taken to have an effective response in Guatemala to the imminent effects of climate change.*

On World Oceans Day we have to acknowledge that Oceans are crucial in the global carbon cycle. It is estimated that they represent the largest long-term sink for carbon since they store and redistribute CO2. So let´s remember that together we have the power to protect our Oceans!

Lilian Yon B.
LACA Regional Representative


*To get a copy of the Decree Number 7-2013 go to:



World Oceans Day 2014

WOD 2014June 8th, 2014

Together we have the power to protect our oceans!

For more information about World Oceans Day, go to: