Hawaii coral reefs host unique fish species

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Coral reefs are, without any doubt, treasures of the sea, spectacular colonies of tiny animals, whom activity helps create this amazing marine environment. There are many types of coral reefs, such as the fringing reef, barrier reef and Atoll reef, and there are numerous seas on the globe that host coral reefs to the excitement and astonishment of tourists who enjoy scuba diving and get to admire the bio diversity and fragility of the coral reefs. But the importance of these great marine environments lies beyond the visual pleasure of tourists, as they shelter amazing species of fish and other living creatures of the sea. A recent study of the deep coral reefs in Papahnaumokakea Marine National Monument, Hawaii showed that these reefs are home to the highest percentage of fish species that can not be found anywhere else in the world. The reefs that were 100-300 feet deep in the water were studied for two years, during which time almost 50% of the fish species observed were determined to be unique to Hawaii. This percentage is higher than in any other marine ecosystem in the world. As observers went deeper into the water, the percentage increased up to 90% for endemic fish.

The study was conducted by the NOAA scientists and was published in the Bulletin of Marine Science. The study took place in The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, whose atolls, islands and submerged habitats represent the largest protected area in the United States and it showed that they shelter unprecedented levels of biodiversity, further stressing the importance and value of this protected area. Hawaii was already known for its wealth of specific, regional species that are no where to be found anyplace else on Earth, but precedent studies only showed a 21 percent uniqueness, while this year’s study significantly raised the bar. Whether it’s the 300 feet deep waters or greater depths, the study had to rely on greatly experienced and highly trained divers, who made use of advanced technical equipment and methods to be able to dive so deep into the sea. The findings of the study not only emphasize the need to protect the area, but also highlight the importance of further surveys, even on deeper reefs and ecosystems.

As a very large part of the sea remains unexplored, what scientists and marine biologists have succeeded in discovering so far has led to the acknowledgement of the great value and even economic impact of coral reefs. However, reefs are vulnerable, not only in front of global warming, but also in the face of acidification and cyanide fishing. To that extent, it is important for people to make significant efforts not to endanger the coral reefs through their activity, as they represent an important resource and a stunning ecosystem, being praised as the rainforests of the sea. Apart from the deep coral reefs in Papahnaumokakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii, there are many other breath taking such marine ecosystems that are worth exploring and studying.